The 25 Worst Stocks by Shareholder Wealth Losses (1926-2022)
Among publicly-listed U.S. companies, the 25 worst stocks have lost shareholders a collective $1.2 trillion since 1926. Put another way, just 0.1% of all stocks have led to 14% of all cumulative losses in shareholder wealth.
In this graphic, we use data from Henrik Bessembinder of Arizona State University to show the worst stocks of the last century.
How Are Shareholder Wealth Losses Calculated?
Bessembinder took three steps to measure lifetime shareholder wealth losses:
- Considered U.S. stocks in the Center for Research in Security Prices database from 1926 (or when the stock was first listed) until 2022 (or when the stock was delisted).
- Measured share price changes as well as cash flows to/from shareholders including dividends, spinoffs, share buybacks, and new share issuances.
- Calculated the excess wealth generated compared to investing in one-month Treasury bills over the same time period.
If a company exited the database during the period, Bessembinder calculated its delisting return based on any proceeds from mergers or acquisitions as well as estimates of any remaining value after delistings for negative reasons.
The 25 Worst Stocks in Modern History
With this context in mind, here are the worst stocks since 1926.
|Rank||Company||Lifetime Wealth Losses||First Month||Last Month|
|6||DUPONT DE NEMOURS||-$60B||Oct‐17||Dec‐22|
|8||QWEST COMMUNICATIONS INTL||-$59B||Jul‐97||Mar‐11|
|17||ARCELORMITTAL SA LUXEMBOURG||-$35B||Sep‐97||Dec‐22|
WorldCom, number one on the list, was a long-distance phone provider and handled internet data. In response to a surplus of telecommunications capacity that reduced pricing power, WorldCom began “cooking its books” to meet growth targets.
An SEC investigation of the accounting scandal found that executives improperly reduced costs by more than $7 billion and exaggerated revenue by at least $958 million. Once the fraud was discovered, WorldCom filed for the largest bankruptcy filing in American history as of July 2002.
Some of the worst stocks by lifetime wealth losses have gone public within the last few years. For instance, Doordash was one of the largest IPOs in 2020, with investor enthusiasm driving its share price 86% higher in the first day. The company has seen its revenue and U.S. market share increase, but it has yet to produce a 12-month profit.
Among the worst-performing stocks, there are some patterns. For instance, eight of the 25 stocks on this list belong to the telecommunications industry. Like WorldCom, many of these companies also engaged in accounting fraud to inflate their financial results.
Financial fraud can be hard to detect, but investors can look for potential red flags such as consistent sales growth while competitors are struggling. The SEC noted in its WorldCom investigation that “WorldCom claimed it was successfully managing industry trends that were hurting all of its competitors”.
Another commonality among some of the worst stocks was the hype around their IPOs. High valuations that are not supported by profitability may lead to large shareholder losses.
Ranked: The World’s Top Diamond Mining Countries, by Carats and Value
Who are the leaders in rough diamond production and how much is their diamond output worth?
Ranked: World Diamond Mining By Country, Carat, and Value
Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production—also known as uncut, raw or natural diamonds—mining for them from deposits within their territories.
This chart, by Sam Parker illustrates the leaders in rough diamond production by weight and value. It uses data from Kimberly Process (an international certification organization) along with estimates by Dr. Ashok Damarupurshad, a precious metals and diamond specialist in South Africa.
Rough Diamond Production, By Weight
Russia takes the top spot as the world’s largest rough diamond producer, mining close to 42 million carats in 2022, well ahead of its peers.
Russia’s large lead over second-place Botswana (24.8 million carats) and third-ranked Canada (16.2 million carats) indicates that the country’s diamond production is circumventing sanctions due to the difficulties in tracing a diamond’s origin.
Here’s a quick breakdown of rough diamond production in the world.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||9,660,233|
|10||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||688,970|
|18||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||3,904|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||3,534|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated.
As with most other resources, (oil, gold, uranium), rough diamond production is distributed unequally. The top 10 rough diamond producing countries by weight account for 99.2% of all rough diamonds mined in 2022.
Diamond Mining, by Country
However, higher carat mined doesn’t necessarily mean better value for the diamond. Other factors like the cut, color, and clarity also influence a diamond’s value.
Here’s a quick breakdown of diamond production by value (USD) in 2022.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||$1,538M|
|9||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||$143M|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||$0.20M|
|20||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||$0.16M|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated. Furthermore, numbers have been rounded and may not sum to the total.
Thus, even though Botswana only produced 59% of Russia’s diamond weight in 2022, it had a trade value of nearly $5 billion, approximately 1.5 times higher than Russia’s for the same year.
Another example is Angola, which is ranked 6th in diamond production, but 3rd in diamond value.
Both countries (as well as South Africa, Canada, and Namibia) produce gem-quality rough diamonds versus countries like Russia and the DRC whose diamonds are produced mainly for industrial use.
Which Regions Produce the Most Diamonds in 2022?
Unsurprisingly, Africa is the largest rough diamond producing region, accounting for 51% of output by weight, and 66% by value.
|Rank||Region||Share of Rough|
Diamond Production (%)
|Share of Rough
Diamond Value (%)
However diamond mining in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon, fewer than 200 years old. Diamonds had been discovered—and prized—as far back as 2,000 years ago in India, later on spreading west to Egyptian pharaohs and the Roman Empire.
By the start of the 20th century, diamond production on a large scale took off: first in South Africa, and decades later in other African countries. In fact between 1889–1959, Africa produced 98% of the world’s diamonds.
And in the latter half of the 20th century, the term blood diamond evolved from diamonds mined in African conflict zones used to finance insurgency or crime.
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