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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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The Latest Wal-Mart News

Applauding and criticizing the world's largest retailer.

compiled by Mike Hartnett (June 6, 2005)

The Annual Shareholders Meeting.

The annual meeting, held at the Rob Walton Arena on the campus of the U. of Arkansas, attracted between 18,000 and 20,000 people. Company execs received a number of standing ovations.

Jessica Simpson sang the the national anthem wearing in a midriff-baring shirt. Singers Jon Bon Jovi and Garth Brooks also performed, wearing the blue vest worn by Wal-Mart employees.

Shareholder Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, drew applause when she criticized Wal-Mart for having only two women on its 14-member board, but her proposal was voted down, the Associated Press reported.

Quotation: "We're the focus of one of the most organized, most sophisticated, most expensive corporate campaigns ever launched against a single company." CEO Lee Scott (Associated Press)

Quotation: "We have made our mistakes. Every time we've made a mistake, we've tried very hard to correct it." David Glass, chair of the Wal-Mart board's executive committee and former CEO (MarketWatch)

Quotation: "There's one thing that isn't going to change at Wal-Mart, and that's our commitment to integrity. We will always be, even when it hurts." Lee Scott (MarketWatch)

Some Uneasy Shareholders.

Some Wal-Mart shareholders who collectively hold 11.5 million shares sent a letter requesting the Audit Committee of Wal-Mart board to establish a committee of independent directors to review the company's legal and regulatory controls and its internal system for ensuring compliance with its own policies and standards, reported Retail Merchandiser.

The group cited the arrest of 250 illegal immigrants at 60 stores in 21 states, settlements regarding exploiting illegal immigrants and violations of child labor laws, the class action sex discrimination lawsuit, the resignation of former vice-chair Thomas Coughlin and his alleged mis-appropriation of funds for anti-union activities, and the firing the alleged whistle-blower of Coughlin's misdeeds. In the last two years, Wal-Mart stock has slid from @$52.50 to under $49. To read the letter, visit www.comptroller.nyc.gov.

Groups Attack Wal-Mart.

The group Wake-Up Wal-Mart, sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, staged protests in AR, AK, CO, GA, NH, TX, WA state, and WI calling for legislation requiring Wal-Mart to provide employees more affordable health care, Dow Jones News reported. The group claimed taxpayers paid $17.5 million for health care for Wal-Mart workers.

"The health care issue is much broader than Wal-Mart. Our nation including large and small employers faces a health-care crisis. Maliciously targeting one company doesn't address this issue," responded Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's Exec. VP.

Meanwhile, the Center for Community and Corporate Ethics, which is connected with Wal-Mart Watch, launched a computer-generated telephone campaign asking people to report unethical behavior by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart officials claim the message makes it sound like it's Wal-Mart asking people to call and have threatened to sue, reported The (AK) Morning News.

Fired VP Files Complaint.

Finally, former VP Jared Bowen filed a complaint with the Labor Dept. saying the company violated the whistle-blower section of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 when it fired him, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported. Bowen says he uncovered the situation where Vice Chair Thomas Coughlin supposedly misspent up to a half-million dollars in Wal-Mart funds. Wal-Mart claims Bowen was part of the problem, not the solution.

(Note: To read previous Wal-Mart news items, and reports on various product categories, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment, email your thoughts on or off the record to mike@clnonline.com.)

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