3. Wal-Mart's E-Mail Trail
First The New York Times unearths unsavory evidence of Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) bribing Mexican officials, and now Bloomberg goes public with internal e-mails detailing the retail giant's sales troubles.
What the deuce, Mike Duke? For a CEO who supposedly runs a tight ship, things are getting awfully leaky down there in Bentonville.The company's stock sank over 2% last Friday after Bloomberg released e-mails from high-ranking Wal-Mart employees caught bemoaning the sluggishness of February sales at the world's largest retailer. On Thursday, the shares popped 2.5% to $71 after the company beat Wall Street's fourth-quarter profit estimates by a dime while issuing first-quarter guidance below consensus estimates. "In case you haven't seen a sales report these days, February (month-to-date) sales are a total disaster," Wal-Mart VP Jerry Murray wrote in a Feb. 12 email released by Bloomberg. "The worst start to a month I have seen in my (about) 7 years with the company." Ouch! Those higher payroll taxes and steepening gas prices really seem to be walloping Wal-Mart shoppers. So much so that the company's brass can't stop whining about it. "Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best-prepared plans weren't good enough to accomplish everything you set out to do?" bemoaned Senior VP of U.S. replenishment Cameron Geiger in a Feb. 1 email to company executives. "Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where's their money?" Chill out, Geiger. There's no reason to go radioactive. If you can't locate your customer's loot, then we're pretty sure they are in a far worse bind than you right now. Certainly those Wal-Mart customers are not abandoning you to ring the registers at Nordstrom, if you know what we mean. Regarding all the loose talk surfacing in the Bloomberg report, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said in a statement: "As with any organization, we often see internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent individual opinions." Sorry, Tovar, but that's too little, too late. That genie is out of the bottle. The smartest thing you could do now is -- to quote Geiger's e-mail -- "stop the stupid" and start keeping your internal communications internal. Not that we don't enjoy lapping up all the loose talk, of course.