Yesterday, Walmart announced weak earnings in the past quarter. The company blamed the weather. It might do better to blame itself. Walmart's reputation is now so toxic that a major American city is purging itself of investments in the company.
Divestment campaigns most often come from colleges and universities, driven by a liberal student body, and they most often target plainly problematic areas of investment, like devilish foreign countries or tobacco or fossil fuel stocks. So it's fairly notable that the city of Portland, Oregon—yes, Portlandia etc, but it's a city big enough to have its own NBA team—is now publicly divesting itself from Walmart, America's largest retailer. From the city's press release:
The last of the City's Wal-Mart bonds will mature in April 2016, at which point the City will have eliminated a total of $36 million invested in the company as of October 2013...The City of Portland's entire investment portfolio ranges from $940 million to $1.29 billion and averages about $1.08 billion during the year. In Fiscal Year 2013, the City's investment portfolio generated about $4.3 million in earnings, which were distributed to all City funds. Until today, Wal-Mart holdings were about 2.9% of the City's investment portfolio.
Is this "just symbolic?" Yes, all divestment campaigns are symbolic. But for a company that prides itself on being the corporate symbol of America, losing an entire American city is a definitive step in the wrong direction. (For just one example of why a city might find investing in Walmart to be an odious use of public money, see here.)
If Walmart's business keeps going the way it's been going, every city will divest in it—because its stock is a bad investment! [Stock joke].