Wal-Mart Fires Worker Over Eavesdropping
Wal-Mart fires systems technician for recording of phone conversations and for intercepting text messages without authorization.
(New York) Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday that it has fired a Wal-Mart
systems technician for recording phone conversations between the company's
PR office and a newspaper reporter and for intercepting text messages
The move is the result of an internal investigation that began on Jan.
11 when someone expressed concerns to the world's biggest retailer about
the matter, Wal-Mart said. It did not identify the technician.
Wal-Mart's internal investigation initially found that the technician
had monitored and recorded phone conversations between Wal-Mart's public
relations staffers and a reporter from The New York Times. The recordings
were made over a four-month period between September 2006 and January
2006. Wal-Mart said it notified The New York Times earlier Monday.
A New York Times spokeswoman, Diane McNulty, said Monday that the reporter
involved was retail writer Michael Barbaro. She said the newspaper does
not plan "to take any legal action at this time."
During the investigation, the company said it discovered that, in separate
instances, the same technician had intercepted text messages and pages
including communications that did not involve Wal-Mart employees.
It said the interception of text messages and pages that does not involve
Wal-Mart associates is not authorized by company policies under any circumstances.
Wal-Mart said it had notified its own audit committee of the allegations
on Jan. 12 and on the next day, attorneys for the company notified the
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
Wal-Mart said that it has kept the U.S. Attorney informed through the
course of its internal investigation and last week advised him that the
investigation was near completion.
On Thursday, it said the U.S. Attorney notified Wal-Mart that his office
would conduct an investigation of the pager intercepts and the recording
of the phone calls.
The FBI in Washington, D.C., said the agency is reviewing the information
from Wal-Mart "to determine if there was a violation of federal law
and if the FBI has jurisdiction."
In addition to firing the technician, Wal-Mart said it has also taken
disciplinary action against two management associates for failure to carry
out their management duties.
"The company believes that these pager intercepts and the recordings
of these telephone calls were wrong and has taken a number of actions
to further strengthen our policies and controls," said Mona Williams
a company spokeswoman in a statement.