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Wal-Mart’s Battered Reputation

Wal-Mart yesterday outlined some plans to improve its employee health care benefits. The move comes at a time when the big-box retailer has clearly been bruised by a torrent of name-calling from labor groups, filmmakers, and other vocal critics in recent years. The most recent indication: The store tumbled from number four to number 12 in Fortune magazine’s annual corporate survey of America’s Most Admired Companies, released this week. That continues a veritable freefall from the number one spot in both 2003 and 2004, a time when the list included only the top 10.

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General Electric climbed back into the top spot in Fortune’s reputation survey this year. Also moving up were FedEx (No. 2), Procter & Gamble (No. 4), and Johnson & Johnson (No. 6).

Another big name dropping on Fortune’s list was Dell — last year’s No. 1 — another bottom-line obsessed company, which fell to No. 8 this year on missed earnings targets and a multi-million write-off of botched products.

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