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2000-03-28
Texarcana, AR. Wal-Mart's Corporate Ethics

Eight years ago, three businessmen from Little Rock, Arkansas approached Wal-Mart with an idea they said could help big discount retailers improve their sales. Joe O'Banion, Leonard Hoffman and Michael McNew, told Wal-Mart that their concept involved offering credit to large customers, like schools, government agencies and big corporations. For a period of about 7 months, the three businessmen engaged in talks with Wal-Mart executives over their "concept". According to the businessmen, Wal-Mart repeatedly told them they had a deal, and that it was being signed-off by Wal-Mart top management. But instead of a contract, Wal-Mart kept asking the trio for more and more details about their plan. No contract with the Little Rock businessmen was even signed. Instead, Wal-Mart unrolled a credit plan of its own based on the concept first developed by O'Banion, Hoffman and McNew. The three filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart in April of 1999, and nearly one year later, a jury in Arkansas this week ruled that Wal-Mart stole trade secrets from the businessmen. The jury awarded the O'Banion Three a total of $31.7 million, plus 7 year's interest on the money, for a total of nearly $50 million, according to the Associated Press. Wal-Mart said the information it may have used was neither confidential nor secret. But the Texarkana jury didn't buy it.

What you can do: O'Banion, Hoffman and McNew may have had dreams of becoming millionaires by working with Wal-Mart. Ironically, they may now become millionaires by working against Wal-Mart. You won't see any Wal-Mart TV ads about the "O'Banion Three", but the case helps shed light onto the corporate ethics and behavior that goes on behind the Wal.










 
 
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