- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said yesterday that it has fired a systems technician for recording phone conversations between the company’s public relations office and a newspaper reporter and for intercepting text messages without authorization.

The move is the result of an internal investigation that began Jan. 11 when someone expressed concerns to the retailer about the matter, Wal-Mart said. It did not identify the technician.

Wal-Mart’s internal investigation initially found that the technician had monitored and recorded phone conversations between Wal-Mart’s public relations staffers and a reporter from the New York Times. The recordings were made over a four-month period between September 2006 and January 2007. Wal-Mart said it notified the New York Times yesterday.

During the investigation, the company said it discovered that, in separate instances, the same technician had intercepted text messages and pages, including communications that did not involve Wal-Mart employees.

It said the interception of text messages and pages that do not involve Wal-Mart associates is not authorized by company policies under any circumstances.

Wal-Mart said it had notified its own audit committee of the phone recordings Jan. 12. The next day, attorneys for the company notified the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

Wal-Mart said that it has kept the U.S. attorney informed through the course of its internal investigation and last week advised him that the investigation was nearly complete.

On Thursday, it said the U.S. attorney notified Wal-Mart that his office would conduct an investigation of the pager intercepts and the recording of the phone calls.

The FBI said it is reviewing the information from Wal-Mart “to determine if there was a violation of federal law and if the FBI has jurisdiction.”

In addition to firing the technician, Wal-Mart said it has taken disciplinary action against two managers for failing to carry out their supervisory duties.

“The company believes that these pager intercepts and the recordings of these telephone calls were wrong and has taken a number of actions to further strengthen our policies and controls,” said Mona Williams, a company spokeswoman.

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