business news in context, analysis with attitude

• Numerous published reports say that investor and shareholder groups are pushing for Wal-Mart’s board of directors to open an independent probe into the retailer’s surveillance activities, some of which came to light after the company fired a security employee for illegally taping phone calls between its staff and a New York Times reporter. Once fired, that employee then told the Wall Street Journal about some of the other activities in which he was involved – including monitoring the private discussions of the board of directors after CEO Lee Scott was asked to leave the room.

• The Salt Lake Tribune reports on how Wal-Mart is working to be more of an online presence, and has “rolled out is new ‘[Site to Store’ service throughout Utah. The service allows customers to order products online at Walmart.com and have them shipped for free to a nearby Wal-Mart store.” According to the story, “most of the products available on the Web site are unavailable in most stores.”

• The Chicago Tribune reports that while Wal-Mart has managed to get its first store open in Chicago, it remains to be seen whether another one will open anytime soon. Much will depend on this week’s City Council elections, which will determine the shape and inclinations of that legislative body.

The Tribune says that Wal-Mart has eight sites upon which it would like to build stores…and now is just waiting to see if it has a friendly City Council with which to do business. It won’t be easy, though – Chicago is a union town, and organized labor is assiduously anti-Wal-Mart.

USA Today reports this morning that when the Fortune 500 rankings come out today, Wal-Mart will regain the top spot, which it had achieved in 2002 but lost to ExxonMobil in 2006.
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