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Do Corporations Rule The World? - Facts & Infographic

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The word corporation is widely used to describe incorporated entities, especially those that have a large number of shareholders, and in respect of which, ownership can be transferred without the need for the consent of other shareholders” – Wikipedia



A study conducted by the University of Zurich in 2011 took a look at what they called ‘super-corporations’ – a small group of companies that wield incredible power in the context of the global economy.


The group of researchers took a look at 43,060 corporations which had operational bases in numerous countries. Having ascertained the ownership and intricate relationship between these corporations, the researchers found out that about 1,318 companies controlled most of the global economy. Further still a small group of mere 147 ‘Super-corporations’ controls over 40% of the wealth of this entire set of 43,060 corporations. Each of these owned the others wholly or in part and had significant stakes in many multinational organizations. Further, researchers discovered that most of these ‘super-corporations’ are banks such as Goldman Sachs and Barclays. The data for this survey was taken from data from Orbis 2007, a database of 37 million companies and investors worldwide. This means that the world over, less than 1% companies control over 40% of the finances.


The greatest concern that the current scenario brings is that such close ties and interdependence leaves the entire network vulnerable. A setback in any of these ‘super-corporations’ could cascade down to affect different areas of the global economy.


Corporate Personhood

A body formed and authorized by law to act as a single person although constituted by one or more persons and legally endowed with various rights and duties including the capacity of succession” - Merriam Webster Dictionary about Corporation


A corporation is formed by a legal registration process which confers on the entity a degree of personhood – the corporation thus has legal rights and liabilities as well. These rights and liabilities are distinct from those of the shareholders. The shareholders can also transfer their shares and can appoint a board of directors to oversee the functioning of the corporation.


With this ‘personhood’ also comes responsibility. A corporation may function for profit or not-for–profit and can be held liable for violation of laws, criminal offences, and human rights. Like natural people, corporations can also declare insolvency or be dissolved and ‘die’. In recent times, researchers have started to study the behavior of corporations towards society and most transnational corporations now shoulder major Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Joel Bakan's book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power explores the huge power wielded by corporations as a result of the financial resources at its disposal.


In the documentary film The Corporation, Noam Chomsky says “Corporations were given the rights of immortal persons. But then special kinds of persons, persons who had no moral conscience. These are a special kind of persons, which are designed by law, to be concerned only for their stockholders. And not, say, what are sometimes called their stakeholders, like the community or the work force or whatever”.


Michael Moore said, “I believe the mistake that a lot of people make when they think about corporations, is they think you know, corporations are like us. They think they have feelings, they have politics, they have belief systems, they really only have one thing, the bottom line - how to make as much money as they can in any given quarter. That's it”


Global Empires

Corporations that are registered in more than one country are called multi-national corporations. The growing success of corporations on a national scale has prompted transnational and global growth of these entities. With growing power the wealth held by these corporations has also multiplied substantially. Here’s a look at the biggest companies of the world -








Exxon Mobil

Oil and Gas


Irving, Texas


Royal Dutch Shell

Oil and Gas


The Hague; London





Bentonville, Arkansas


Sinopec Group

Oil and Gas




China National Petroleum Corporation

Oil and Gas





Oil and Gas







Rotterdam; Geneva


State Grid Corporation of China

Electric utility





Oil and Gas


San Ramon, California



Oil and Gas


Houston, Texas





Toyota, Aichi



Oil and Gas




Volkswagen Group





Japan Post Holdings










Saudi Aramco

Oil and Gas





Oil and Gas







Cupertino, California


General Motors



Detroit, Michigan


General Electric



Fairfield, Connecticut


Controlling Media – A Look At The US

In 1983, 90% of the American media was owned by about 50 companies. In 2011 it is estimated that 90% of the media was controlled by 6 corporations – GE, News-Corp, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, and Disney.

·         GE controls Comcast, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, and NBC

·         News-Corp controls Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Fox

·         Viacom controls MTV, Nick Jr, BET, CMT, and Paramount Pictures

·         Time Warner controls HBO, CNN, Time, and Warner Bros.

·         CBS controls Showtime, NLF.com, Jeopardy, 60Minutes, and Smithsonian Channel


These six corporations own over 70% of the cable business in the US. With Comcast’s NBC merger, it has monopoly of 11 US markets including NYC and Chicago. 178 million unique visitors read Time Warner news each month.


Over 227 million Americans hear, see, and watch the news offered by these 6 corporations. The opinions formed by the vast majority of the Americans also depend on the analysis or perspectives presented by these corporations. The total revenue earnings for these six organizations in 2010 were an estimated $275.9 billion. With the stakes growing higher each day the need to capture the TRPs with sizzling news bytes becomes all the more important.


Influencing Governments

The contributions of corporations or individuals closely associated with corporations are often an important source of campaign funds for political parties and candidates. Governments of many countries are directly or indirectly influenced by lobbies & special interest groups, which are in turn influenced by corporations. In the 2012 Presidential Election in the US, the top sources of contributions for campaign funds for the candidates included –


Barack Obama


Mitt Romney


Microsoft Corp


Goldman Sachs


Google Inc.


Bank of America




Morgan Stanley




JP Morgan Chase & Co




Credit Suisse Group


While the corporations themselves did not contribute to the candidates’ campaigns, funding came from the organizations' PACs, their owners or employees, and their immediate families.


According to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll of people from 22 countries, 74% respondents agreed that "large companies have too much influence on the decisions of their government". While 83% Latin Americans believed in the statement, 81% North Americans as a whole agreed. 73% Europeans also believed that large corporations influence their governments while 70% respondents from Asia-Pacific agreed. A large number of the total respondents thought that these corporations were more influential than their governments. 72% thought that their governments should be more aggressive in regulating the everyday activities of large national and multinational corporations.


Corporations Vs Public Interests

Many economists feel that corporations have now come to dominate both our economics and politics. The evolution of corporations have brought in a detachment from social and cultural values, it is feared. While smaller businesses die out, public interest is often at stake. The earliest corporations were formed with little though to profit-making modern corporations are little more than profit machines.


A 2009 study in the US concluded that -

  • Corporations produced about 98% of the poultry

  • The packaging of over 83% beef, 66% pork, and 80% of soybeans is undertaken by 4 corporations

  • Corporations control farming methodology. 2 billion kgs of pesticides are used in US farms each year

Another fallout of the growth of corporations is the adverse impact it has had on the environment in many parts of the world. For example the drive to extract oil from Nigeria has cost many lives as corporations backed by the military have been at loggerheads with the local people who have been protesting the environmental damage. The activities of the oil companies have remained incessant, though.


The growth of corporations has concerned many economists. The orientation of corporations is tuned to the profit and benefit of a few shareholders as opposed to the benefit of the masses. This dichotomy of most national economies has been a matter of worry.


Presence Is Power

In the age of Social Media, digital presence is equated with visibility for most corporations. By ruling the roost in social networks and the Internet space, corporations often dominate what people see and control their retail, social, political, and media choices. The Dachis Group has computed the Social Business Index – an index of the activity and effectiveness of brands on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and Pinterest. Having analyzed over 35,000 brands and 1 billion social accounts, the Social Business Index ranks the following brands as the top social brands –


  1. Viacom – National Amusements Inc (Dedham, Massachusetts)

  2. The Walt Disney Company (Burbank, California)

  3. News Corporation (New York, New York)

  4. Zynga (San Francisco, California)

  5. NBC Universal (New York, New York)

  6. Google (Mountain View, California)

  7. Nike (Beaverton, Oregon)

  8. Time Warner (New York, New York)

  9. Unilever (London, UK)

  10. NBA (New York, New York)

  11. Microsoft (Redmond, Washington)

  12. Coca Cola (Atlanta, Georgia)

  13. P & G (Cincinnati, Ohio)

  14. Kraft (Northfield, Illinois)

  15. WWE (Stamford, Connecticut)

  16. Nestle (Vevey, Switzerland)

  17. Discovery (Silver Spring, Maryland)

  18. L’Oreal (Clichy, France)

  19. Samsung Electronics (Seoul, South Korea)

  20. Electronic Arts (Redwood City, California)

Social media engagement has been equated with clout, brand awareness, marketing, and even sales. According to a study by Track Social in September 2012, the top 5 brands on Twitter in terms of social engagement are – Hasbro (7.3 million interactions per year), Red Bull (4.1 million interactions per year), ESPN (4.1 million interactions per year), NBC (3.9 million interactions per year), and Disney (3.6 million interactions per year). In their Facebook study, they said that the most engagement was initiated by Disney (26.7 million interactions per year), Publix (25 million interactions per year), Bud Light (23 million interactions per year), Fox News (17.6 million interactions per year), and Budweiser (16.4 million interactions per year).


Best Global Brands of 2012

Interbrand, a division of Omnicom, is one of the world's leading brand consultancies. Interbrand recently released their report 'Best Global Brands of 2012'. In this the top brands of the world are listed out and the financial health, role and strengths of these brands are analyzed. Each of these brands has a significant presence in at least 3 continents of the world. According to them the top 10 global brands are –



Coca Cola




















Do Corporations Rule The World.

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