We made a couple of posts (here and here) on the subject of Wal-Mart’s threat research unit. Bruce Gabbard, a former member of the group (former by virtue of having been fired), spoke to the Journal about its activities, which reportedly included having Gabbard monitor board meetings (which as we discussed, at a minimum would constitute a breach of confidentiality) and investigated shareholder groups that submitted resolutions. Some of those shareholders were not satisfied with Wal-Mart’s explanations and one, the New York City Comptroller, has called for the SEC and the US Attorney General to investigate.
On Friday, Wal-Mart asserted that Gabbard’s testimony under deposition disavowed some of the Journal’s claims. President Lee Scott denied that the retailer spied on its board or investigated shareholders, with the exception of ones like PETA, which “have a history of being disruptive.”
The New York Times’ report gave pride of place to Wal-Mart’s statement, although later it did evidence a bit of digging. For example, it quoted an officer of WakeUpWal-Mart, who called for a third-party investigation of Gabbard’s statements, and Wal-Mart’s general counsel, who claimed the company had carried out no background research on anyone who sponsored shareholder resolutions for this year’s annual meeting (note this is a limited denial).
The Journal’s article was understandably a bit prickly. It stated that it
….remained confident that the information provided….was accurately reported. We would also note that Mr. Gabbard generally took this same position when he was contacted by the Associated Press shortly after the publication of our April 4 article.
The paper also noted
After the April 4 story ran, Mona Williams, a vice president for corporate communications, called Wall Street Journal Dallas Bureau Chief Neal Templin to say the story had been fairly handled though Wal-Mart wished the Journal hadn’t run it.
I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this one….