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Trade-secret leak in aisle 7

Amy Scott Aug 15, 2007


Scott Jagow: I never thought a grocery store merger could have so much drama. But this Whole Foods/Wild Oats deal is like a bad soap. First, we found out the Whole Foods CEO was blogging under a fake name and bashing Wild Oats. Now, the Federal Trade Commission has inadvertently released dozens of trade secrets. Oops. Amy Scott has more.

Amy Scott: The Federal Trade Commission is trying to block Whole Foods’ $565 million merger with rival Wild Oats on antitrust grounds.

Yesterday, the commission released public court documents containing information that should have been omitted. The documents revealed the company’s plans to close at least 30 Wild Oats stores.

The pages also outlined Whole Foods’ practice of negotiating with suppliers to drive up costs for Wal-Mart. The FTC has since replaced the offending pages, this time blocking the sensitive details.

Pressly Millen practices antitrust law at Womble Carlyle in Raleigh. He says that’s too little, too late.

Pressly Millen: Once it’s out, it’s out. And attempts to redact things later are typically very ineffectual, given the way these documents can be digitally stored and transferred on the world wide web.

One grocery analyst called the leak pretty benign. Whole Foods says it’s investigating.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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