Saturday, July 14, 2007

San Diego Defeats Wal-Mart Ban

Associated Press
San Diego Defeats Wal-Mart Ban
Associated Press 07.10.07, 10:19 PM ET

In a surprise victory for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the City Council on Tuesday failed to override the mayor's veto of a ban on some big-box stores in the nation's eighth-largest city.

Councilwoman Donna Frye reversed sides after supporting the ban three times since September, resulting in a 4-4 deadlock that fell one vote short of putting the measure into law.

Frye said she was uneasy with a blanket ban and would work for a new law that requires tougher scrutiny of new superstores.

"I do not like the idea of having giant superstores, but I also believe there is a way to deal with this issue that will be inherently better for our city," said Frye, who narrowly lost a write-in bid for mayor in 2004.

Mayor Jerry Sanders called the council vote an "enormous victory for San Diego consumers."

"Government should not tell consumers where they can and can't shop," he said.

The measure would have prohibited stores of more than 90,000 square feet that use 10 percent of space to sell groceries and other merchandise that is not subject to sales tax. It took aim at Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ) Supercenter stores, which average 185,000 square feet and sell groceries. Costco Wholesale Corp. (nasdaq: COST - news - people ) and other membership-style retailers would have been exempt.

Supporters of the ban argued that Wal-Mart puts smaller competitors out of business, pays workers poorly, and contributes to traffic congestion and pollution. Opponents said the mega-retailer provides jobs, low prices and more choices for consumers.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has about 2,000 Supercenter stores, including 27 in California, but none in the San Diego area. The retailer has 18 regular Wal-Mart stores in the San Diego area, including four within limits of the city of 1.3 million people.

Wal-Mart, which was considering a petition drive to overturn the measure if it became law, welcomed the decision.

"The ordinance was so anti-competitive and so anti-consumer," said Amy Hill, a company spokeswoman.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Woman Files Beef Lawsuit Against Tyson & Wal-Mart

Woman Files Beef Lawsuit Against Tyson & Wal-Mart
7/5/2007 6:55:00 AM
Woman Files Beef Lawsuit Against Tyson & Wal-Mart

A Muskogee, Okla., woman is filing a lawsuit against Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods Inc. alleging hamburger meat she purchased made her sick, according to a local media report.

KOTV in Tulsa said Melinda Pierce filed the complaint after she had bought some Tyson hamburger meat at the Muskogee, Okla., Wal-Mart on June 4, ate it and fell.

Last month, Tyson foods voluntarily recalled packages of ground beef made in its Sherman, Texas, plant on June 2nd and sent to Wal-Mart stores in 12 states, including Oklahoma. (See E. coli concerns prompt United Food Group recall to top 5 million pounds, new ground beef recall on, June 11, 2007.)

Tyson foods spokesman Gary Mickelson told the company has not been contacted nor have they seen the lawsuit. "If she contacts us, we certainly will be glad to look into it," he said.

Wal-Mart told KOTV it has not seen the lawsuit, but that food safety is a priority.

Source: Janie Gabbett on 7/5/2007 for

Copyright 2007 Integrated Management Information, Inc

Border Patrol Surrounds Local Wal-Mart

Border Patrol Surrounds Local Wal-Mart
Story by Christine Dinh, 6/27/2007

CALEXICO, Calif., June 27, 2007 - Border Patrol agents surrounded a local Wal-Mart today and searched inside for suspected drug smugglers.

It started earlier this afternoon as Border Patrol and Marine helicopters followed a truck suspected of smuggling drugs to a Calexico Wal-Mart.

Three people got out of the truck and went into the store.

Agents swarmed in and discovered several bundles of marijuana weighing nearly 300 pounds.

The three suspects were arrested and turned over to the DEA.

Images courtesy U.S. Border Patrol

Story Created: Jun 27, 2007 at 8:25 PM MDT

Story Updated: Jun 28, 2007 at 10:46 AM MDT

Copyright ©2007 Pappas Telecasting of Arizona All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Attorney: Wal-Mart Collected On Deaths

Attorney: Wal-Mart Collected On Deaths
Skip directly to the full story.
Published: Jul 3, 2007

TAMPA - When Karen Armatrout died in 1997, her employer, Wal-Mart, collected thousands of dollars on a life insurance policy the retail giant had taken out without telling her, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

Armatrout was one of about 350,000 employees Wal-Mart secretly insured nationwide, said Texas attorney Michael D. Myers, who estimated the company collected on 75 to 100 policies involving Florida employees who died.

Myers is seeking to make the Armatrout lawsuit a class-action case on behalf of the estates of all the Florida employees who died while unwittingly insured by Wal-Mart.

"Creepy's a good word for it," Myers said. "If you ask the executives that decided to buy these policies and the insurance companies that sold them, they would say this was designed to create tax benefits for the company, which would use the benefits for benevolent purposes such as buying employee medical benefits.

"If you asked me, I would say they did it to make more money."

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said he could not comment because the company has not been served with the lawsuit.

The company settled two lawsuits with employees represented by Myers in Texas and Oklahoma, one for about $10 million and one for about $5 million. He said Karen Armatrout came to his attention when Wal-Mart mistakenly gave her husband's phone number to an Oklahoman who called the retailer inquiring about the settlement.

Myers said he also has filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart in Louisiana.

Payouts Up To $80,000
Richard Armatrout, who is retired, does not want to speak publicly about his case, Myers said. Armatrout did not respond to a message left by the Tribune.

Karen Armatrout was 50 when she died of cancer, said Myers, who said she had worked several years in the pharmacy of the store on West Waters Avenue.

Myers said the policy payouts ranged from $50,000 to $80,000, depending on the person's age and gender. They were taken out on all full-time Wal-Mart employees who, in December 1993, were between ages 18 and 70 and participated in the medical benefits plan.

He said the company stopped taking out the policies in 1995 but continued to receive payouts on employees who died, even those who had left Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart, which said it canceled its policies in early 2000 because it was losing money on the arrangement, says the program was intended to reduce its income taxes to help pay rising employee health care costs. Workers were notified and given the opportunity to opt out, the company said.

The Armatrout lawsuit says the policies were all written in Georgia, where the laws allowed such policies to be obtained.

The lawsuit says Wal-Mart used confidential information it received from employees for use in their employment, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth, to obtain the life insurance policies.

Myers said this corporate practice is not uncommon. He estimates that up to 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies have taken out such policies on employees. The vast majority of the time, the employees didn't know, Myers said.

The practice evolved over time, Myers said. Corporations started by taking out large life insurance policies on key executives, getting tax breaks when they paid the premiums and collecting the payouts.

IRS Not Pleased, Attorney Says
The amounts of those policies grew to the point that Congress limited how much a company could insure an individual for, Myers said. Insurance companies then suggested buying lots of small policies on companies' work forces, the attorney said. He said the Internal Revenue Service has labeled the practice a sham and has successfully litigated the issue against several corporations.

Myers said his law firm has sued corporations for the practice, including Winn-Dixie and Fina Oil and Chemical. The latest case is its first in Florida.

The practice spread beyond top executives in the 1980s when the industry successfully lobbied states to allow employers to claim an "insurable interest" in the lives of rank-and-file workers.

Many employers seized on the practice because they could borrow against the policies, and the interest paid was tax-deductible. Congress closed that loophole in 1996, but COLI - corporate owned life insurance - remained a popular investment strategy.

The chief appeal was that interest accrues over time on the money in such policies. When a worker dies, the employer collects without paying taxes on the gain.

In 2001, premiums on such policies swelled to $2.8 billion from $1.5 billion the year before, according to a report by CAST Management Consultants of Los Angeles.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Reporter Elaine Silvestrini can be reached at (813) 259-7837 or

©2007 Media General Inc. All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 02, 2007

Husband files 'dead peasant' suit against Wal-Mart for collecting insurance in spouse's death

Updated June 29, 2007, 4:55 p.m. ET
Husband files 'dead peasant' suit against Wal-Mart for collecting insurance in spouse's death
By Emanuella Grinberg
Court TV

When Karen Armatrout died of cancer in 1997, her husband, Richard, collected a modest amount in life insurance benefits from her employer, Wal-Mart.

But Armatrout claims that, unbeknownst to him, Wal-Mart also collected on a life insurance policy, one the company took out on Karen Armatrout years before without her knowledge.

This week, Armatrout filed a class-action complaint seeking what his lawyers estimate might be $80,000 in benefits that Wal-Mart supposedly collected "in bad faith" on a corporate-owned life insurance policy.

Armatrout's "dead peasant" suit, filed Wednesday in Tampa, Fla.'s U.S. District Court, accuses Wal-Mart ofmaking money off her death without having a valid claim to her estate.

Typically, such a stake, known as an "insurable interest," is reserved for individuals so closely connected to the person insured that he or she would suffer significant financial damage if the person died.

The complaint also charges that the Arkansas-based corporation misappropriated Karen Armatrout's name and personal information for the purposes of taking out the policy.

"Wal-Mart and the insurers used employees' private information to buy and sell policies," Armatrout's Texas attorney, Mike D. Myers, told "As matter of public policy, Wal-Mart should not be permitted to keep the policy's benefits because it did not have the necessary insurable interest in the lives of its rank-and-file employees to warrant being a beneficiary."

From 1993 to 1998, Wal-Mart was not alone in reaping the tax benefits associated with corporate-owned life insurance, which came to be known by critics as "dead peasant" insurance, based on a character in Nikolai Gogol's "Dead Souls" who buys up the contracts of recently deceased serfs.

Lawyers for Armatrout, who say that Wal-Mart took out such policies on 350,000 "rank and file" employees like Karen Armatrout during that time, have also participated in lawsuits against Golden Corral, Winn Dixie and Camelot Music.

The attorneys, who have brought three identical lawsuits against Wal-Mart in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, say the company made use of favorable tax regulations in Georgia, which allowed the company to take out corporate-owned life insurance policies without the employees' knowledge.

Wal-Mart settled the suits in Texas and Oklahoma, where the company paid back 100 percent of the benefits, amounting to just over $5 million.

Along with Armatrout's case in Florida, another suit is pending in Louisiana.

In the previous cases, Wal-Mart attempted to argue that Georgia law applied because that was where the policies were purchased and paid out. But the courts found that the proper venue for deciding whether Wal-Mart had an insurable interest was thedeceased's state of residence.

Only six states, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, allow companies to take out life insurance policies on their employees without notifying them. Most states have laws requiring that companies advise their employees and seek their consent before purchasing the policies.

Myers says he is hopeful that the precedents set in the other cases bode well for the Florida case, where he is seeking class-action certification for an estimated 80 plaintiffs in addition to Armatrout.

"I'd rather be where we are now rather than after losing three in a row," Myers said.

Representatives for Wal-Mart did not return calls for comment.

© 2007 Turner Entertainment Digital Network, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
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Area woman sues Wal-Mart, claims false detainment

Area woman sues Wal-Mart, claims false detainment
By Dustin Lemmon Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Illinois City woman filed suit this week against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over a June 2005 incident in which she allegedly suffered a seizure while being detained by store security.

The suit, seeking nearly $800,000 in damages, was filed in Rock Island County Circuit Court by Lindsay Castellano, 21, who also faces a misdemeanor retail theft charge under her maiden name in connection with the incident.

Castellano, who is hypoglycemic, had just purchased $116 worth of groceries at the Moline store on June 26, 2005, when she started feeling woozy and rushed outside to get some juice or candy she kept in her car in case of emergency, the suit stated.

Before she could reach her vehicle, Castellano was stopped by a store security guard, who grabbed her arm and physically prevented her from reaching the vehicle, the suit stated. The suit did not explain exactly why the guard stopped her.

A year later in July 2006, Castellano was charged under her maiden name, Lindsay Doyle, with a misdemeanor count of retail theft in Rock Island County Circuit Court and accused of stealing cosmetics, medication, underwear and sunglasses at Wal-Mart on June 26, 2005.

A Moline police report filed in court claimed the case “fell between the cracks” after store security and police failed to follow up and was brought back to their attention after learning Castellano planned to sue the store.

Castellano did not appear for an August 2006 court hearing and the case is still pending, court officials said. The Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday there is still a warrant out for Castellano’s arrest for failing to appear.

John Simley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the company had not been served with a copy of the suit as of Tuesday and he could not comment on something they had not seen.

In the suit, Castellano claimed she explained her emergency to the guard, who still would not allow her to retrieve the juice or candy from her car. Castellano was forced back into the store at 3930 44th Avenue Drive, where about 30 seconds later, she suffered a seizure, the suit added.

After recovering “to an extent” from the seizure, Castellano was taken to a closed private room where she was asked questions and had her property searched, the suit claimed, adding she was then arrested for theft.

According to the report filed with the misdemeanor case, a store security guard watched Castellano starting at 9:45 a.m. and saw her remove tags and remove some items from store packages before placing them in her purse.

Castellano paid $100 for groceries but had another $100 worth of merchandise in her purse, the report claimed.

Castellano was offered treatment from paramedics with the Moline Fire Department and declined, the report added.

After Castellano was questioned, the items were returned to the store and she received credit on her debit card for the items she purchased, the report stated, adding she was then taken to the Rock Island County Jail where she posted bond.

The lawsuit contained multiple counts against Wal-Mart including battery, assault, false imprisonment, false arrest, conversion, harassment, negligent supervision and general negligence. Each count asks for a specific dollar amount in compensation, all totalling $778,800.

She also seeks $150 for the contents of her purse, which she claims the store seized.

The 2005 incident happened within a week of Castellano’s marriage, which she was unable to fully appreciate because of the emotional distress she was suffering at the time, the suit added.

A hearing for the lawsuit is set for Sept. 20.

Dustin Lemmon can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or Comment on this story at

© Copyright 2007, The Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Disabled Man Denied Access to Wal-Mart's Electric Wheelchair

Disabled Man Denied Access to Wal-Mart's Electric Wheelchair
Posted: Jun. 21, 2007

Roanoke Rapids — A disabled veteran from Halifax County said he was twice denied access to an electronic wheelchair at a Wal-Mart in Roanoke Rapids recently.

Thomas Young lost his leg to diabetes six months ago. He has been adjusting to life without it. Simple things like shopping at Wal-Mart can be difficult, Young said, but nothing prepared him for what happened at the store Sunday.

“I just come up here on Father’s Day to get a few things, do a favor for the wife,” Young said. “The grandson had come along, and I sent the grandson in to pick up the electric cart.”

Young’s grandson, Zach Shumaker, said when he went to retrieve the cart and bring it to his grandfather, store officials told him it was against store policy.

Young said his wife then called the store manager, who apologized and said that was just not true. The manager said Young could come back anytime and get a cart.

After the apology, Young and his grandson returned to Wal-Mart the next day. When Shumaker tried again to take the cart to his grandfather, store officials told him he was not able to get the cart past the pylons, Young said.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the scooters are there to help people like Young, but the rule is that they can leave the store only if accompanied by store personnel. Company officials said they are looking into why that didn’t happen in this case.

“I thought they should have made at least the manager come out to the truck and talk to me while I was still sitting in the vehicle,” Young said. “It would have made it much easier to swallow.”

Young said he is writing a letter to Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters, but said he has no intentions of filing a lawsuit.

The company apologized again Thursday and said it’s their goal to provide a motorized cart for everyone who needs one.

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

© 2007, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.

Ex-Wal-Mart Employee Claims Executives Took Gifts

Ex-Wal-Mart Employee Claims Executives Took Gifts (Update5)
By Lauren Coleman-Lochner and Margaret Cronin Fisk

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- Julie Roehm, the marketing chief fired by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for alleged conflicts of interest, accused executives of accepting free plane travel, concert tickets, and, in the case of Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott, discounts on yacht purchases.

Roehm said in court papers filed in Detroit yesterday that she never put her own interests first, ``although other executive employees of Wal-Mart did on a frequent basis.''

The filing follows Roehm's lawsuit for breach of contract and fraud in December and a counterclaim by Wal-Mart in March that accused her of taking gifts from DraftFCB, an advertising agency she had hired, and having an affair with a subordinate. Wal-Mart fired Roehm after less than a year on the job and subsequently dropped the agency.

``This lawsuit is about Julie Roehm and her misconduct,'' said Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley. ``Her document shows how weak her case is.''

Scott bought yachts and a ``large pink diamond'' at a ``preferential price'' from companies run by Irwin Jacobs, the complaint said. Roehm also accused Scott of traveling to Las Vegas and Florida on jets owned by Jacobs.

One of Jacobs' companies, Plymouth, Minnesota-based Jacobs Trading Co., buys and sells returned and leftover merchandise from stores including Wal-Mart, and employs Scott's son as a consultant.

``We will address these issues in court,'' Simley said. ``Certainly we dispute the allegations involving our CEO and Irwin Jacobs.''

Jacobs denied giving preferential prices on at least two fishing boats and diamond to Scott and says Scott has never been in any of his planes. He doesn't sell diamonds, he said.

`Outright Lying'

``Wherever she's getting her information from is either wrong or from someone who is outright lying,'' Jacobs, 65, said in an interview by mobile phone from Turkey today. ``If they don't retract it, I'm going to sue them personally.''

``What bothers me about this whole thing is how hard he tries to make sure the things he does are done just the right way,'' Jacobs said of Scott. ``He made it very clear he did not want preferential treatment. He said that to me in person.''

Roehm attorney Sam Morgan said today that he would depose Jacobs, ``and we'll see what he has to say under oath.''

Separately, the state of Rhode Island has asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to look into whether Wal- Mart adequately disclosed a possible conflict of interest concerning Scott's son Eric's employment by Jacobs Trading.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Treasurer Frank Caprio urged the SEC in a May 21 letter to probe whether Eric ``may have had a material interest in the transactions that investors would consider significant.'' Companies are required to disclose dealings that benefit directors' immediate family members.

Rhode Island has a $21 million stake in Wal-Mart in its pension funds.

The concern is baseless because none of Eric Scott's work or compensation involves Wal-Mart, said Jacobs. Scott rents office space from Jacobs Trading and contacts other companies to arrange purchases of their leftover merchandise, he said, noting the arrangement was approved by Wal-Mart attorneys.

``There are rules for what you should disclose and we follow all of them,'' including in this case, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said.

``It would probably be different if Eric Scott were a high-level executive officer with Jacobs Trading, but he is not. He has no interest, much less material interest,'' in two companies' transactions, she said.

SEC spokesman John Nester declined to comment on what action, if any, the agency will take.

Vodka Case

Wal-Mart didn't initially disclose the reasons why the retailer fired Roehm.

After Roehm filed the lawsuit for breach of contract and fraud, Wal-Mart accused her of taking gifts, including meals and a case of vodka, from DraftFCB, which was competing for the company's $580 million annual advertising budget.

Roehm denied those accusations in the filing yesterday. She also said other Wal-Mart executives, including her supervisor John Fleming, the company's executive vice president of marketing, accepted from vendors free tickets, backstage passes and souvenirs from an Eagles concert in Spain.

Roehm's lawsuit was initially filed in state court in Michigan in December and transferred to federal court in January. A trial is scheduled for May 2008, Morgan said.

The lawsuit is Roehm v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., No. 07-CV- 10168, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Port Huron).

Shares of Wal-Mart rose 26 cents to $46.91 at 4:01 p.m. in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lauren Coleman-Lochner in New York at ; Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at 2947 or .

Last Updated: May 25, 2007 17:31 EDT

Ex-worker files suit against Wal-Mart

Ex-worker files suit against Wal-Mart
Posted on Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Fayetteville woman filed a federal lawsuit Friday against her former employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., over claims that supervisors failed to meet her medical needs during a problematic pregnancy.

The lawsuit, filed in U. S. District Court in Fayetteville, claims Maggie Collins’ former bosses told her she could not use a stool at work because “it did not look good.”

Collins, who had worked for the company since July 2004, suffered a miscarriage in 2005 and was having problems with a second pregnancy when she asked her boss if she could sit on a stool do to her work. She was a customer service manager at Wal-Mart Store No. 144 in Fayetteville.

“Ms. Collins was told that she could either stand and work or leave,” attorney Judith Rebecca Pratt Hass wrote in the lawsuit.

Collins quit her job in late 2005 “rather than endanger the health and life of her unborn child,” the court filing said.

Copyright © 2001-2007 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.