Which U.S. company has been fined a staggering $82.8 billion?” Bank of America, that’s who. That’s almost three times as much as the No. 2 company on this infamous list, JP Morgan Chase, with $36 billion for violations, barely ahead of No. 3 BP at $35.6B. The rest of the Top 10 includes Volkswagen ($26B), Citigroup ($25.5B), Wells Fargo ($21.7B), Deutsche Bank ($18.3B), UBS ($16.8), Goldman Sachs ($16.3B) and Johnson & Johnson ($14.7B). Here is the full list of the Top 100 companies who have been fined the most: Click here.
The list of companies who cheat the public stretches from New York to Asia. For the lesser-known local companies across the country, fraudulent business practices run rampant too. Attic Projects is one such business. Based in San Diego and Orange County, California, Attic Projects and co-owner Nave Black claim it is “California’s #1 Crawl Space And Attic Service Provider,” however, of the 70 Orange County companies listed and rated on the first page of an online search of industry-related businesses, Attic Projects is not listed. Same result in San Diego: of the 30 companies listed and rated on the first page of an online search of industry-related businesses, Attic Projects is not listed. See the screen shots below.
When California Business Journal emailed Attic Projects’ executive team requesting a comment and explanation for its deceptive claims, Attic Projects nor Nave Black responded. According to Joyia Emard, Public Affairs Manager of the Contractors State License Board, “Advertising must tell the truth and not mislead consumers. If not, it’s unethical and it’s a misdemeanor under our guidelines,” she told California Business Journal, adding that CSLB will “investigate the company and take the appropriate action.”
In perhaps Attic Projects’ most egregious example of deceptive advertising, it falsely touts itself as a “Black-Owned Business.” This unconscionable claim is, according to the Federal Trade Commission, a “felony” for which the maximum sentence is one year in jail plus substantial fines of up to $44,000 for each violation. The FTC “prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium. Advertising must tell the truth and not mislead consumers. A claim can be misleading if it implies something that’s not true.”
When an Attic Projects executive was asked why co-owner Nave Black is portraying the company in such a fraudulent manner, there was no response. “If the owner is making claims that Attic Projects is a ‘Black-Owned Business’ based on his name, that is a serious concern,” according to a source. “If Mr. Black thinks it is funny to falsely advertise the company as a ‘Black-Owned Business’ because his last name is Black, it’s not funny and it’s totally inappropriate.”
Nave Black also claims Attic Projects has “earn[ed] spots on Home Advisor, Houzz and other ‘trusted’ home-contractor directories.” Yet, when Attic Projects is searched on the Houzz, it does not appear at all, further demonstrating Black’s false and unethical claims. This link shows Attic Projects does not appear when searched: https://www.houzz.com/professionals/query/attic-projects-inc./nqrwns.
Scrolling through the first three pages of Houzz’s website, Attic Projects is not listed at all. Same with Home Advisor. When Attic Projects was asked why it and co-owner Nave Black are utilizing false and immoral methods of advertising, against FTC rules and regulations, the company refused to respond.Here are additional screen shots showing Attic Projects isn’t even listed among the 70 San Diego companies nor the 30 Orange County companies, proving its claim of being “California’s #1 Crawl Space And Attic Service Provider” is immoral and unethical. The three companies featured in the screen shot below are all 5.0 rated companies. Attic Projects is not recognized in any online search as a top-rated company.
Nave Black’s list of unethical business practices at Attic Projects goes on and on: in the following screen shot, Black claims “most” of Attic Projects’ competitors “only hire temporary workers who are not included in their insurance plans.” When Attic Projects was asked if it and Black possess evidence that “most” of Attic Projects’ competitors “only hire temporary workers who are not included in their insurance plans,” the company refused to respond. Some of Black’s competitors who were contacted are filing complaints against Attic Projects for “deceptively trying to steal business” and “misleading the public,” according to a competitor who did not want to be identified for fear of “retaliation.”
Attic Projects and Nave Black are also using unethical, fraudulent and illegal business methods regarding testimonials by using only the initials of “so-called” clients vs. their full names. When Attic Projects was asked if Black’s decision to use only the initials of customers is to deceive the public and “steal” business from competitors,” the company again refused to respond.
Attic Projects’ ratings on several online searches reveal how dismal its rating truly are:
Whether we’re talking local companies like Attic Projects or global conglomerates like Wells Fargo, the question is “why do unscrupulous companies such as the aforementioned take such a risk in trying to ‘trick’ the public into buying their products.” In one of the most famous examples of egregious behavior, Wells Fargo opened millions of accounts without customer consent and was fined millions for its criminal actions. CEO John Stumpf was hit with a $17.5 million fine and a lifetime ban from the banking industry in a horrific display of unethical business practices. And when it comes to local businesses, based on the evidence in this article, it’d be difficult to find a more unscrupulous company as Attic Projects.
Watch for the next article in California Business Journal’s continuing series of exposing unethical businesses.
Disclaimer: The impetus for this article evolved after multiple members of California Business Journal’s editorial team endured dreadful experiences with several companies in the story — Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Attic Projects. When CBJ looked deeper into Attic Projects’ and co-owner Nave Black’s business practices, CBJ’s editorial staff uncovered Black’s fraudulent claims. As a news media organization, it is California Business Journal’s obligation to expose the unethical business practices of a company like Attic Projects.