Wal-Mart's image took another hit late last week when a junior employee of partner agency Mercury Public Affairs was caught posing as student journalist and interviewing labor activists opposed to a new store in Los Angeles. Mercury is representing Wal-Mart as it tries to obtain a building permit for Los Angeles' Chinatown section.
Stephanie Harnett, a senior associate at Mercury, reportedly attended a press conference held by Warehouse Workers United, a group critical of Wal-Mart, and interviewed a member about his working conditions. Weeks later, she showed up at another press conference and was identified as a Mercury employee.
Mercury condemned Harnett's actions and said she is no longer working at the firm, and Wal-Mart also distanced itself from her.
However, an anonymous tipster told Gawker on Friday that he worked for a firm representing Wal-Mart in Ohio in 2005 and was also asked to attend community meetings under a false identity.
Wal-Mart came under fire in April after The New York Times reported on allegations that company executives bribed Mexican officials to more quickly build a store in the country, then squashed an internal investigation into the matter. In 2006, Wal-Mart and Edelman were widely criticized after the agency created a blog featuring a couple visiting Wal-Marts across the US without disclosing its funding.