Business Wars, Dirty Money and American Greed: The Schadenfreude of Corporate America

I do enjoy a good documentary now and again … especially ones that expose the seamier, grittier side of corporations, businesses and organizations.

Which is why I’ve started following a new podcast, and have recently binge-watched a new Netflix documentary series.  Oh yeah, and I’m waiting for new episodes of an old CNBC favorite.

Let me start with the podcast.

Business Wars is a brand new podcast from Wondery, and it comes from the same people who made the podcast American History Tellers.  The podcast, in episodic format, follows the major battles between corporations for market supremacy – their successes, their failures, their wise decisions and their head-shaking gaffes.

The first series on Business Wars features the battle between video rental chain Blockbuster and home delivery video service Netflix.  The eight-part series – which can be accessed on your Apple device, as well as on other podcast devices – explains the battle both entertainment companies undertook to try to eliminate the other – almost to the point of attrition on both sides.  Through the podcast, you can understand the struggles that Blockbuster went through – its chain of rental stores shrinking as new media delivery services rose – as well as the events that nearly put Neflix out of business.  Yes, that almost happened.  More than once.

Speaking of Netflix, they’re currently airing an amazing six-part documentary series, Dirty Money, about the graft and sleaziness of corporations.  The series features episodes documenting such hubris-laden actions as the Volkswagen car company using emission-cheating devices to fool people into buying heavily-polluting diesel cars; the Valieant pharmaceutical company, who increased their profits by jacking up life-saving drugs by thousands of dollars per pill; and the cooperative that controls the production and sale of maple syrup in Canada – an organization that actually threatens independent maple syrup producers with arm-twisting demands.  Wow.

Of course, there’s always cable television for shows like this … and one of my favorites is a late night CNBC docu-series called American Greed.  This show features people and corporations who built their reputations on swindling and scamming and stealing … all to the point where they eventually live the high life … only to get caught and brought down by the cops.

Here’s a trailer for an episode in which basketball player Rumeal Robinson actually swindles his adopted mother out of the home he bought for her.  Wow.

Or this classic episode in which scammers use cold calls to tell people they’ve won the lottery … so long as they pay several fees upfront to get the money.  This is also known as the “Jamaican Lottery Scam,” and it’s pretty pervasive.

This is the side of corporate American that we’re not supposed to know about.  But I’m glad there are shows like this that let us all know the truth.  Or at least a truth that’s boiled down to a 60-minute episode. 😀