April 11, 2007

Since This Falls Inside…

…the parameters of my own professional bailiwick, I thought it only right that I remark upon it.

Wal-Mart is in the midst of a kerfuffle involving its corporate security people, the nucleus of which consists of one Bruce Gabbard.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Wal-Mart won a gag order to stop a fired security operative from talking to reporters, and a judge ordered him to provide Wal-Mart attorneys with “the names of all persons to whom he has transmitted, since Jan. 15, 2007, any Wal-Mart information.”

The court papers made public yesterday follow a string of revelations about the retailer’s large surveillance operations and its business plans.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed a lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order with a circuit court judge after court hours Friday.

In the lawsuit, Wal-Mart says former security operative Bruce Gabbard violated trade secrets law by revealing to reporters “confidential information about Wal-Mart security systems and operations” and “highly confidential information about Wal-Mart’s strategic planning.” It seeks unspecified damages.

This affair leaves a rather bad taste in my mouth, as it calls into question the loyalty of a protection professional to his principal, in this case Wal-Mart — the security business is a little different from most other career venues, in that it is considered unethical, to the extent of a taboo, to disclose proprietary information on an employer, even an ex-employer, unless they have broken the law. Keeping company secrets is no less important than circumventing pilferage, shoplifting, workplace violence, industrial espionage, vulnerability to terrorist activity, workplace safety risks, fraudulent activities, unauthorized access, embezzlement, internal policy violations, liability risks such as fraudulent and/or overstated lawsuits, etc, etc…

Further, it is incumbent upon a security professional to establish the parameters of both the legalities of his/her responsibilities and the policies of his/her employer. That said…

The suit and restraining order were filed two days after Wal-Mart apologized to activist shareholders for Mr. Gabbard’s revelation that they were considered potential threats and ahead of a story in yesterday’s editions of the Wall Street Journal on Mr. Gabbard’s assertion that Wal-Mart had a supersecret Project Red aimed at bolstering its stagnant share price.

Wal-Mart declined to comment on the Project Red report except to say, “Our senior management, our board and their advisers regularly conduct thorough, strategic reviews of all aspects of our business. That’s just good governance. We look at a full range of alternatives, many of which are considered and rejected, and we will not comment specifically on any of them.”

…Mr. Gabbard had his directives. Corporate security is not the lingerie department. It was up to Mr. Gabbard to examine the legalities of his assigned tasks. When you hire a security professional, you hire a creative, thinking mind, not a robot that blindly follows orders. In doing as directed, he will, as a pro, have researched his orders. Had he found any legal discrepancies, it would have been his job to bring them to the attention of his supervisor and declined to put himself and the principal at risk by implementing them.


Mr. Gabbard, a 19-year Wal-Mart veteran, was fired with his supervisor last month for purportedly recording phones calls between a reporter and company officials and for intercepting pager messages between other people.

Wal-Mart said he violated its policies.

Mr. Gabbard was part of a 20-member security team called the Threat Research and Analysis Group.

The question here is whether or not Gabbard exceeded his brief, that is, allowed zealousness or an unreasonable drive to please his employers, whether they liked it or not. Or if he merely acceded to the lure of the “power” his access to surveillance technology afforded.

Shaken, not stirred.

Wal-Mart’s corporate leadership, on learning just how far Gabbard had pushed the envelope, dismissed him and his immediate boss, and denied having had anything to do with his excesses.

According to Wal-Mart’s upper management, he was a loose cannon on deck who took it upon himself to play Big Brother, and was, as a result, terminated from his employment.

As a supporter of Wal-Mart in the war the Democrats have declared, on behalf of their union lucre contributors, on the retailer, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this case is resolved.

The Wall Street Journal presents a more detailed account, but access to the actual article requires a WSJ subscription. Luckily for those who don’t subscribe, an anti-Wal-Mart site called Wal-Mart Watch has conveniently reproduced the WSJ article in its entirety.

Definitely read the comment thread on the post, it’s right-thinking dominated to the point that the liberals-in-charge don’t seem to have much to contribute.

I’m sure we can now expect some new rhetoric from the left and their myriad anti-Wal-Mart sites containing lots and lots of nazi and fascist accusations, along with a healthy dose of “violation of privacy” alarmism and so on, and so on….

by @ 2:02 am. Filed under Corporate Security, Just Editorializing