Waste Not, Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) is in trouble again. Only this time, the allegations are all trash. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, the company disclosed that it is the subject of a criminal investigation into how it handles certain types of hazardous waste, including hair spray and charcoal.

At issue is how Wal-Mart used its own trucks to transport the materials, instead of vehicles certified to carry hazardous waste. In doing so, the company may have violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles is leading the investigation.

Before you type that email bemoaning the Feds sticking it to Wal-Mart, consider that this marks the second time in less than 45 days that the company has been involved in a high-profile law enforcement action. The last one, in mid-November, featured the arrest of 120 workers on immigration violations.

And don't forget a long-standing class action suit that accuses it of discriminating against women employees in terms of salary and advancement.

Wal-Mart hasn't formally answered the latest charges. But a company spokesman gave a modest defense by telling Reuters that the government wasn't challenging the way it disposes of waste, only how it transports it.

Look, I'm not going to bash Wal-Mart. After all, the retailer has developed a superior business that has provided investors with generous returns over decades. But at some point, the flood of lawsuits will raise fundamental questions. Here are two: Just how far does Wal-Mart go to deliver rock-bottom prices? And are those practices legally sustainable? The anecdotal evidence suggests these lawsuits won't be a serious threat to Wal-Mart, but I suspect it will be some time before we know for sure.

We've got bins full of related Foolishness for you:

Ever dug through trash? You should try it sometime. Just ask Philip Durell, advisor forMotley Fool Inside Value; his investing approach is beating the market by more than 3% as of this writing. Get in on the action by taking a risk-free 30-day trial. Or sign up for a year and getStocks 2006, our analysts' best picks for the year ahead, free. Either way, all you have to lose is the prospect of better returns.

Fools, now is the time to open your hearts and wallets to worthy causes! Please support our five Foolish charities at

Fool contributor Tim Beyers only takes out the trash. He refuses to dig through it. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 498757, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/25/2016 1:14:01 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 3 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,223.03 77.32 0.43%
S&P 500 2,151.33 10.17 0.47%
NASD 5,309.83 52.43 1.00%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/24/2016 4:02 PM
WMT $69.19 Up +0.85 +1.24%
Wal-Mart Stores CAPS Rating: ***