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• The New York Times reports this morning that “the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a lawsuit claiming off-the-clock violations could proceed as a class action on behalf of nearly 80,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees.” Wal-Mart had argued that it would be better to hear the cases individually.

Forbes reports that WakeUpWalMart.com is launching a new marketing campaign aimed at undermining the world’s biggest retailer, this time focusing on how much product it sources from China, despite the fact that the company had a longtime commitment to the notion of “made in America.”

According to the story, “In materials provided to reporters on the sidelines of a Wal Mart media conference, the group included a 1985 press release from Sam Walton in which he criticizes the loss of U.S. jobs to imports and pledges to buy American-made products whenever possible to protect domestic manufacturing jobs.”

Wal-Mart replied to the attack by saying that it remains committed to buying products from US companies, but that as a global company “it is necessary to source globally to ensure that we meet the needs and wants of our customers.”

• In assessing the ongoing battle between Wal-Mart and its former marketing executive Julie Roehm, Fortune concludes that it almost doesn’t matter what happens in the courts. “This is a public-relations battle,” it writes, suggesting that Roehm has managed to draw blood by accusing CEO Lee Scott of getting preferential prices on yachts and a diamond ring from a supplier, in direct violation of company ethics standards. (Roehm was fired for the same sorts of infractions, as well as for engaging in an adulterous relationship with an underling She has denied both allegations, and is suing in court for breach of contract.)

“Right now,” Fortune writes, “it looks like Roehm has the upper hand. Scott has plenty of things to worry about.

“Wal-Mart's stock is an underperformer. It's not clear if the retailer has a viable long term strategy. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's hardball tactics are drawing fire. It recently had to apologize to the New York Times after it revealed that one of the former members of its Threat Research and Analysis Group had eavesdropped on a reporter's cell phone calls.

“The last thing Scott needs is more questions about his jewelry purchases. If nothing else, Wal-Mart's CEO should have paid more attention to the part in the company's ethics policy about avoiding appearances of impropriety.

“Wal-Mart's lawyers may still find a way to avoid paying Roehm her severance. But she's already had her revenge.”
KC's View:
We actually think that Wal-Mart may have greater vulnerability on the “made in America” issue than the Roehm scandal…simply because it goes to the core of the company’s mission as stated by Sam Walton. It is an argument that could resonate with many consumers in Wal-Mart’s core constituency, and persuade at least some that the retailer is not what it used to be.