updated 4/20/2007 8:34:23 PM ET 2007-04-21T00:34:23

A fired Wal-Mart security operative has retracted a claim attributed to him in news reports that Wal-Mart spied on its own board of directors, the retailer said in a lengthy statement late Friday that also repeated a denial it had snooped on critical shareholders.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. released a letter from Chief Executive Lee Scott to shareholders and a 10-page affidavit from the retailer’s top lawyer stating that a company review found no evidence there was any “inappropriate information gathering” aimed at critical investors.

The affidavit also said that Wal-Mart lawyers had interviewed the fired former security operative, Bruce Gabbard, this week after filing a trade secrets lawsuit against him April 6 and winning an emergency court order to bar him from speaking to reporters.

Under oath, Gabbard said an allegation attributed to him in The Wall Street Journal was taken out of context, Wal-Mart said. Gabbard’s attorney could not immediately be reached because Wal-Mart released the material Friday evening.

In a Journal story published April 9, Gabbard was quoted as saying, “I’m the guy listening to the board of directors when Lee Scott is excused from the room.”

In his statement to Wal-Mart’s lawyers, Gabbard said “that was from a statement taken out of context.” He went on the say that nobody at Wal-Mart had ever monitored or recorded board meetings and no one had ever asked him to do that.

Gabbard, part of a security team called Threat Research and Analysis, was publicly fired by Wal-Mart in March for allegedly recording a reporter’s phone calls and intercepting pager messages of other people in violation of company policy. The company also turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, whose office has said it is investigating whether any federal laws were broken.

After he was fired, Gabbard alleged to The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press that Wal-Mart had widespread surveillance operations against targets including shareholders, critics, suppliers, the board of directors and employees. Wal-Mart has denied any wrongdoing.

Several shareholders presenting policy resolutions for the June 1 shareholder meeting asked Wal-Mart for apologies and a full explanation of why a Wal-Mart memo, made public by Gabbard, suggested that Wal-Mart security perform a “potential threat assessment” of them. The New York City and Illinois state pension fund systems asked the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department this month to investigate if Wal-Mart was spying on investors.

Scott’s letter to shareholders reiterated that there had been no surveillance.

“This letter and the attached Affidavit and Certification of Findings will undoubtedly fail to appease those individuals or groups whose sole purpose is to perpetuate negative and inaccurate publicity about our Company,” Scott wrote.

“We do hope, however, that this response will allay the concerns of those shareholders who have an interest in seeing our Company grow and prosper,” he wrote.

Scott did not apologize, as several investor groups had demanded.

Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center, a free market think-tank that has a resolution pending for the shareholder meeting, said he was encouraged that Wal-Mart was taking the allegations seriously enough to probe them and contact investors.

“I’m encouraged that Wal-Mart is being responsive,” Flaherty told The Associated Press.

But he objected to a line in the memo on shareholders, which Wal-Mart included with the affidavit, that said Wal-Mart board Chairman Rob Walton wants to limit dissident shareholders to 2 minutes speaking time to present their resolutions. He said that was too short.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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