BENTONVILLE, Ark. — H. Lee Scott Jr., president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores here, said in a letter to shareholders that the results of “a thorough review” by the company's legal department concluded there had not been any covert surveillance of private meetings of board members or of shareholders — a response to published reports that indicated such surveillance had taken place.
In the letter, Scott said he doubted the company's investigation would “appease those individuals or groups whose sole purpose is to perpetuate negative and inaccurate publicity about our company.”
Accompanying the letter was an affidavit that the company said was intended to honor the request of a shareholder who asked that Wal-Mart certify it had not engaged in inappropriate surveillance. Wal-Mart said it became aware in January that Bruce D. Gabbard, an employee in its information systems division, had engaged in certain activities — including the unauthorized recording of phone conversations between a Wal-Mart spokeswoman and the New York Times — that led to his dismissal on March 5.
Gabbard was identified in an April 4 story in the Wall Street Journal as the newspaper's primary source on allegations that he was part of a surveillance operation that snooped on employees and on shareholders who were submitting proposals for the June 1 annual meeting. According to the affidavit, Gabbard subsequently told Wal-Mart his comments had been taken out of context and that other statements in the Journal story, which were inaccurately attributed to him, were not true.
Wal-Mart said its own investigation found no evidence that anyone had ever listened secretly to meetings of its board or of proponents of shareholder proposals. According to the affidavit, Gabbard told Wal-Mart investigators under oath he did not record conversations in the boardroom or conduct any kind of electronic eavesdropping on shareholders, nor had he ever been asked to do so by Wal-Mart.