business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Wal-Mart “has fired a systems technician for intercepting text messages and recording telephone conversations without authorization.” The messages and conversations were between the retailer’s public relations department and New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro, and took place between September 2006 and January 2007.

Federal officials have been informed of the situation and reportedly are reviewing the findings to see if additional legal action needs to be taken.

According to the Journal, “Wal-Mart said the phone recordings weren't authorized and were in direct violation of the established operational policy. However, the company said the actions weren't illegal, since all employees agree with company policies state all electronic communications of employees using Wal-Mart communication systems are subject to monitoring and recording. Most states allow the recording of phone calls, as long as one party gives consent.

“Wal-Mart said in addition to firing the technician, it has taken disciplinary action against two management associates for failure to carry out their management duties.”

The New York Times story elaborates: “The company did not say what led the technician to make the recordings or why Mr. Barbaro’s conversations were the target.” However, the Times also notes that “over the last year, Mr. Barbaro has written dozens of articles about Wal-Mart, including some that were based on internal company documents that were given to him by union-financed groups that were critical of Wal-Mart’s business practices.”
KC's View:
We hear about illegal taping, and we always think back to Watergate…and start to wonder if there is more here than meets the eye.