As the maker of Ivory soap, Tide detergent, and Crest toothpaste, Procter & Gamble is a household name. It is America’s thirteenth largest company, lauded by business schools as a model for success. But behind P&G’s wholesome image is a control-obsessed company so paranoid that Wall Street analysts, employees, and the chairman himself refer to it as “the Kremlin.” The company demands conformity and unquestioning loyalty from its employees, who work in a strict and oppressive environment. P&G’s wealth and power ensures it gets what it wants, from tax breaks to the eager services of Washington lobbyists.
In this explosive exposé, Wall Street Journal reporter Alecia Swasy—who covered P&G for three years—tells the full chilling story of life within the P&G behemoth. Drawn from interviews with over 300 former and current P&G employees (including CEO Ed Artzt), visits to P&G operations in five countries, and thousands of court and company documents, Soap Opera reveals the dirty tricks and draconian mind-set of the company with the “99 44/100% pure” façade. Included here is the real story behind P&G’s Rely brand tampons and their link to women’s deaths from toxic shock syndrome—and how P&G tried to suppress that evidence. Swasy takes us to Taylor County, Florida, where residents drink bottled water because P&G’s influence allowed the company to flood the local river with dioxin-laden toxic waste from its paper mill. Among these and dozens of other examples of the company’s cutthroat nature is Swasy’s own story of P&G’s unethical seizure of Cincinnati phone records in an effort to track down her sources. Wonderfully readable and impeccably researched, Soap Opera is a sobering look at the price of success in America.