business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • The Associated Press reports that while Wal-Mart has established that it wants to open 40 new supercenters in California over the next few years, a “handful of lawyers” have filed suit against the retailer in more than 30 cities, using the state’s restrictive environmental laws to stall its expansion plans.

    “In many cases,” the AP reports, “the suits have been filed on behalf of obscure, often secretive community groups. Some have been backed by labor unions leading an anti-Wal-Mart fight in California, while others have few apparent sources of money.” But regardless of who the plaintiffs are or what they represent, they have managed to slow Wal-Mart down…though the retailer maintains that it hasn’t been stopped, only delayed.

    While some believe that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is behind the anti-Wal-Mart efforts, UFCW spokesperson Jill Cashen tells the news service that it has backed only four or five suits, and that there are more than 25 other litigation efforts that it has not gotten involved with. "The fact is there are many people in every community who are concerned about their expansion,” Cashen says. “We're certainly not alone. We're part of a broader movement of people from lots of different walks of life and motivations.”

  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that “at Wal-Mart's 48 stores in Minnesota, customers can cash payroll checks, transfer money to family and friends in foreign countries, pay utility bills and buy money orders with fees that are up to 80 percent less than those charged by major banks.” But while some view these initiatives simply as a precursor to Wal-Mart’s inevitable desire to expand into the financial services business, others believe that its success reflects a growing distrust of banks, and a desire by Americans for a low-cost alternative to the institutions they currently use.

    There seems to be a growing amount of attention being paid to Wal-Mart’s banking intentions. There was a story the other day on that speculated about what would happen if Wal-Mart got into the financial services business in a major way, “putting the squeeze” on “mortgage lenders who surprise their borrowers with last-minute junk fees,” “banks that nickel and dime their small account holders to death,””auto lenders who add discriminatory surcharges on loans to black and Hispanic buyers,” “credit card companies that use every excuse to jack up rates,” and “check cashers and payday lenders that levy usurious charges on their customers.”

  • Another case where Wal-Mart is being painted as a heel by someone with a critical tongue.

    The Canadian Press reports that a Nova Scotia man is suing the retailer claiming that, when he tried on a pair of shoes in a Wal-Mart store, his foot was cut by a security tag hidden in the shoe. He says that the store was responsible for making sure that its merchandise was free of sharp objects, and is suing the retailer for an as yet undetermined amount.

KC's View:
Nice to know that the US doesn’t have a monopoly on frivolous lawsuits.

Sort of lowers the tensions between our two nations.