Walmart Vendor’s Employees Face F.B.I. Inquiry for Snooping on Retailer’s Internal Emails

A Walmart spokesman said the company terminated its contract with Compucom and has put in place “new tools to improve our monitoring process” of I.T. contractors in light of the incident. Walmart said its own investigation into the matter showed no customer information was compromised.

“Companies with an extensive communications network like ours require the support of different partners and a high level of trust,” the spokesman, Randy Hargrove, said. “We relied on this vendor but their personnel abused their access and we want those responsible to be held accountable.”

When a Walmart executive who managed the retailer’s technology operations confronted a Compucom manager about the breach, the contractor blamed it on a “bad employee” and said the firm had “made changes to fix the issue,” the F.B.I. document says.

But, according to the document, the scheme involved several Compucom employees.

Investigators found that one of the contractor’s employees had gained access to the email accounts of Walmart’s chief executive and others involved in approving contracts with vendors like Compucom, the filing says.

The Compucom employee, according to the F.B.I., would scroll through Walmart emails to obtain information about competing contractors’ bids and then pass what he learned on to his managers.

Those managers provided the employee a list of Walmart employees whose emails they should try to get a look at to gain an edge in the bidding process. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, was an important customer for Compucom, which maintained an office in Bentonville, Ark., near Walmart headquarters.

Founded in 1987, Compucom describes itself as “the largest employee field technician work force in North America.” It says that it works with small businesses as well as major corporations, “including six of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies.”

Office Depot bought Compucom as a first step toward broadening its business beyond selling office supplies in stores to include offering technology services to companies.