- As previously noted, the new "High Class" campaign to change and re-model at least half of the Wal-Mart stores in the United States has now started... Yesterday the first Up-Scale Wal-Mart opened yesterday in Plano. With an expanded selection of high-end electronics, featuring more fine jewelry, hundreds of types of wine ranging up to 500 dollars per bottle -- and even a sushi bar the largest company in the history of the world takes its first step towards re-amping its image and appeal. Wal-Mart is eager to see how communities surrounding Plano respond to this new image, if successful the re-modeling of more stores will begin immediatley.
- Witness's for the scheduled Wal-Mart Federal Bank proposal hearing were announced today. Among those scheduled to speak are Jane Thompson, president of Wal-Mart Financial Services, representatives of the American Bankers Association and America's Community Bankers, and officials from the AFL-CIO, Wake-Up Wal-Mart.com and the National Association of Realtors. Wal-Mart is seeking to open an industrial bank in Utah, a move that's been bitterly opposed by community banks wary of competing with the retail behemoth. Industrial banks allow retailers and others to offer consumer loans and other banking services to their customers, and do business for their own accounts. Other companies, including General Motors, General Electric and Wal-Mart rival Target Corp. maintain industrial banks. But Wal-Mart's drive to open a bank has drawn special fire, owing to the company's status as a mammoth retailer. Industrial-loan banks are state-regulated but also fall under the supervision of the FDIC. Still, some critics say since the Federal Reserve doesn't supervise the banks, they're subject to less-stringent regulation. Federal Reserve officials including Chairman Ben Bernanke have expressed concern about the growth of industrial-loan banks.
- The FDIC is planning two hearings to take public comment about Wal-Mart's application. Thirty-eight individuals are scheduled to testify at the first hearing April 10 and 11 in Arlington, Va. The second hearing is scheduled for April 25 in Overland Park, Kansas. Thirty-two witnesses are scheduled to testify
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