FINANCE

Wal-Mart seeks end to re-filed gender-bias lawsuit

BY Katherine Boccaccio

San Francisco — A Tuesday report by Reuters said that Wal-Mart filed a motion on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed last October by a regrouping of women whose earlier gender bias class action was ended by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs alleging that Wal-Mart denied them pay raises and promotions because of their gender are regrouping after the Supreme Court last year dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart workers. The reformulated lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco federal court in October, said the women were confining their allegations to California.

But in its Monday motion to dismiss, Wal-Mart said the smaller proposed class action actually seeks to cover all women who were employed at any Walmart in any region that included a California store.

"This attempt to cobble back together the original class badly misses the point," Wal-Mart said. "Without the ‘glue’ of a common policy or practice holding individual claims together, there is no justification for adjudicating them collectively. And plaintiffs still fail to allege any such ‘glue.’"

Wal-Mart proposed a May hearing date for its dismissal motion.

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News

Kraft gears up for spinoff

BY CSA STAFF

NORTHFIELD, Ill. — Realigning U.S. sales, consolidating U.S. management centers and streamlining corporate and business unit organizations are on the to-do list of Kraft Foods as it prepares to spin off its business in two independent public companies before the end of the year.

"When we announced our decision to create two world-class companies last August [the grocery and global snacks businesses], we said both would be leaner, more competitive organizations," Kraft Foods chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld said. "For the past year, the North American team has been working to streamline operations to deliver sustainable top-tier performance and continue to invest in our iconic brands. We’re confident that this transformational work will improve effectiveness and fuel the future growth of both companies."

The following changes will be implemented:

  • Realigning U.S. sales structure to create more focused teams, which are expected to be in place by April 1, so each company can customize its approach to in-store sales and execution to maximize impact;

  • U.S. management center locations will be reduced from four to two. This includes the relocation of the beverages business unit in Tarrytown, N.Y., and the Planters brand in East Hanover, N.J., to the Chicagoland area by December 2012 and the closure of the Glenview, Ill., management center by the end of 2013. In Canada, both companies will retain sites in the greater Toronto area;

  • With leaner structures for both businesses, Kraft plans to eliminate approximately 1,600 positions throughout the United States and Canada over the next 12 months, primarily from sales, corporate and business unit areas. About 20% of these job eliminations currently are open positions. Planned workforce reductions do not include manufacturing facilities, Kraft Foods noted.

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OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart taps former CBS web exec as head of global e-commerce

BY Marianne Wilson

Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores announced that Neil Ashe, 44, is the new president and CEO of the company’s global e-commerce business, effective Jan. 16.

Ashe was most recently president of CBS Interactive, where he led all online properties and also drove development of new ways to distribute programming produced by the media giant and its subsidiaries.

Ashe is replacing Eduardo Castro-Wright, who announced his retirement in September and will assist in the transition.

"E-commerce is a great opportunity for us and we have a long-term vision to win," said Mike Duke, Walmart’s president and CEO. "We are on track to create the next generation of e-commerce, combining the latest in online innovations with physical stores to give our customers a unique and seamless shopping experience."

Duke described Ashe as the “ideal leader” to help the chain build its online business.

“He has led companies through all stages of growth and maturity,” Duke said. “He also has a deep understanding of the interactive space and how to attract and convert online customers. Perhaps most importantly, much of Neil’s professional success has come through close collaboration and shared goals with his peers – a key attribute as we continue to integrate our online businesses across the company and with our physical stores."

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