Avoiding the Appearance of Wal-Mart

While we're on the subject of Wal-Mart

A reader brought it to my attention that the co-chair of the state agency charged withdeveloping business in New York gave away about $30,000 of stock in Wal-Mart and another company in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Empire State Development's downstate chairman, Patrick Foye, made the announcement about the Wal-Mart and Alexandria Real Estate stock during an ESD meeting back in March. (The statement about it was posted shortly afterwards.)

There's no indication of any impropriety here — the divestiture was transparent and, presumably, entirely proactive.

But it does indicate a sensitivity to the potential problems that could arise from holding stock in a company like Wal-Mart, especially if that company decides to make another run at doing business in New York.

Foye’s spokesman, A.J. Carter, said that Foye picked the stocks to donate for “personal financial planning reasons“ and “it had nothing to do with whether Wal-Mart was doing business with the state.”