This article is free of opinion and bias, and is based solely on international statistics and accredited media reports. All listed facts within this article are fully-attributed to several economic experts and media outlets, including CBS News, MoneyInc.com, Forex indicator FFSSI.com, QuerySprout.com, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, CNBC, Wikipedia, and CorpResearch.org.
According to Forex indicator FFSSI.com, in a report filed January 16, 2022, Walmart was the top-ranked company by revenue in 2021. See here for an FFSSI.com ranking of that year's 10 highest earners worldwide, which listed Walmart at $571.960 billion.
Amazon.com places second on the list, with earnings of $457.960 billion.
However, as successful as Walmart has become, its status as the globe’s premiere retailer has been consistently challenged, primarily due to a plethora of lawsuits and, most recently, a stark rise in inflation and interruption of the supply chain.
Lawsuits vs. Profitability
Years after its inception on July 2, 1962, when Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart Discount City on 719 West Walnut Street in Rogers, Arkansas (note the hyphen originally used in the moniker, which was also used in versions of Walmart’s corporate name until 2019), the chain had been particularly plagued with lawsuits.
For a fully-attributed history of the company, including legal controversies, see Wikipedia entry here.
This article will delve into Walmart’s myriad controversies, which have included ongoing accusations of labor abuses, including discrimination, bribery, and controversies over waste disposal.
While Walmart has also won its share of lawsuits, the reality of stores closing are not based on the chain’s legal issues as some have been led to believe. Instead, Walmart has adapted its business model to keep up with the times. I recently published an article on NewsBreak, "Is Your Neighborhood Walmart Planning to Permanently Shut its Doors?" that elaborates on this misconception. See here.
Excerpted from the article: The widespread media coverage of those temporary closings have once again led to questions about the health of one of the nation’s largest chains. QuerySprout addressed the concern: Walmart is closing some of its stores to focus more on e-commerce as of 2022. A recent analysis of the company’s revenue reveals that more customers now prefer shopping online to visiting Walmart stores. Therefore, Walmart’s business operations are currently shifting to support online shopping and maintain fast, efficient, and reliable services.
Throughout said adaptation, though, Walmart’s legal woes have continued.
On July 19, 2021, Walmart lost one of its biggest cases. See article from CBSNews.com here, entitled, “Jury Orders Walmart to Pay $125 million After it Fired Worker with Down Syndrome.” The lawsuit was the latest of thousands of suits targeting the retail giant yearly.
An even larger settlement occurred nine years earlier in 2012, a result of the case Walmart Vs City of Pontiac, Michigan, General Employees Retirement System. See here for MoneyInc.com article on the matter, which states the following: In this matter, Walmart agreed to settle in a bid to end the fraud allegations made against it. This is following the investigations made against the retail giant. According to the allegations, Walmart was operating contrary to the Federal Corruption Practices Act in Brazil, China, India and Mexico. The matter was heard before the Securities and Exchanges Commission. The settlement agreement directed Walmart to pay monies to the tune of 160 million Dollars to the investor class. In return, Walmart would accept no liability, wrongdoing or claim of guilt in its operations. The matter was originally filled in United States District Court of Fayetteville. The lead plaintiff in this matter was the retirement fund.
For more information on the specific fraud allegations, specifically regarding the concealment of suspected bribery to help the retailer expand faster in Mexico, see Reuters report on the piece here.
On the waste disposal side of accusations against Walmart, issues have occurred for over a decade in the state of California alone. In December of 2021, The Los Angeles Times published “Walmart Sued For Alleged Dumping of Hazardous Waste in California Landfills.” The article also alluded to related past issues: In response to a civil enforcement action imposed by the state in 2010 over Walmart’s disposal of bleach, pesticides, and other hazardous waste, Walmart agreed to a stipulated resolution that included paying $24.6 million in penalties and a commitment to halt the unlawful dumping of hazardous waste in California landfills, according to the lawsuit.
Despite, or perhaps because of, its recent challenges, the chain has maintained its pricing. See here for Business Insider article, "How Walmart Keeps its Prices So Low." From the article: If Walmart didn't keep its prices low enough to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon, then it could soon enough go the way of Borders bookshops, Sam Goody's record stores, and other once-ubiquitous retailers that saw their market share fade and then collapse as online sales grew ever larger.
See here for a November, 2021 CNBC report on the subject, "Walmart and Target Clash with Investors Over Strategy to Keep Prices Low Despite Inflation," and here for QuerySpout.com piece, "13+ Reasons Why Walmart is So Cheap."
Still, the retailer’s past and present legal issues remain as highly publicized as its low prices. See here for Corp.Research.org piece on Walmart’s legal track record, entitled "Wal-Mart: Corporate Rap Sheet." Excerpting from the article: For more than two decades, the giant retailer has been at the center of controversies over its low wages, overtime pay abuses, meager employee benefits, gender discrimination, negative impact on small business, immense dealings with China, tax avoidance and much more.
According to web watchdog ViolationTracker.GoodJobsFirst.org, from January 1, 2000 to the end of 2021 Walmart has paid $2,061,191,960 from a sampling of 448 records. See here for Violation Tracker report.
In fact, many more cases are pending.
Regardless, there is no indication of an end to the Walmart legal quagmire, and yet there are also no indications as to Walmart losing future revenues based on resultantly poor publicity.
Despite its myriad controversies, and current inflation issues plaguing much of the world, Walmart remains the globe‘s #1 retail powerhouse in terms of yearly revenue.
The chain will continue to evolve with the times, and shows no signs of slowing down. Their low prices, it appears, will remain Walmart’s biggest draw.
Thank you for reading.