The biggest box store on earth asked a private intelligence firm to trawl the Facebook friends of a competitor's CEO for Danish and Hungarian women, then determine if he'd slept with any of them—a request so weird that the spy company said it went too far.
That was a part of the negotiations between Wal-Mart and Stratfor, the embattled intel consultants, that occurred through 2010, according to the latest dump of Stratfor's internal emails by Wikileaks (which was subsequently reported by the Daily Dot).
For the previous two years, Wal-Mart had been going to Stratfor to get customized intel on foreign areas of expansion. But in April 2010, the retailer asked for a dossier on Per Bank, CEO of British hypermarket giant Tesco at the time. The reason, Wal-Mart said, was that they were "interested in hiring" Bank—though, as the Daily Dot notes, that's impossible to confirm.
Eight days and $8,000 later, Stratfor provided a short summary of Per Bank's life, concluding that he was squeaky clean. That's when Wal-Mart hopped on the slow boat to Colonel Kurtzville.
Wal-Mart executive Richard McHugh—"formerly the federal security director at U.S. Department of Homeland Security"—asked Stratfor for more. "Our research indicates he has many female friends and I was wondering whether that was simply because many of his friends are women or if this is indicative of marital infidelity," he wrote in an email.
There was some go-around by both companies on the cost and logistics of running such a spy op on Bank, but Stratfor ultimately broke off the relationship with Wal-Mart in spectacular fashion. "We need to turn down this business," a Stratfor wrote to the company's VP of intelligence:
McHugh is asking us to—
1. Identify a bunch of people in Denmark and Hungary, based almost solely on their Facebook pages
2. Decide whether or not they're sleeping with Per Bank
3. Figure out who the people sleeping with Per Bank are working for (Tesco, vendors, competitors, etc)
4. Decide whether they're sleeping with Per Bank as part of a corrupt business deal, or if he's merely cheating on his wife
Mind you, Stratfor didn't evince moral misgivings about the surveillance; it was just that "I'm not convinced we can do any of that, regardless of the price we charge," the analyst wrote. Don't worry, Wal-Mart, it was for the best. You know what they say: Save money, live better.
[Photo credit: AP]