02/10/2012 12:15 pm ET

Walmart Fined For 'Unacceptable' Workplace Violations

In recent years, Walmart has taken some steps to try to turn around its reputation as the company that everyone loves to hate through its sustainability initiatives, low-cost banking services and increased community donations.

But the mega-retailer still has a long way to go, judging by its repeat violations of workplace safety and health standards at some stores.

This week, it was fined $365,000 by the Occupational and Safety Health Administration for 24 alleged violations at a single store in Rochester, New York. The penalty stems from multiple inspections initiated after one complaint.

Among the alleged violations were those for obstructed exits, lack of eye and face protection for workers, lack of information and training on hazardous chemicals and an unguarded grinder. OSHA's area director, Arthur Dube, said in a statement that the size of the fines was due to the fact that the conditions are similar to those at nine other Walmart locations in New York and eight other states. The company was cited for similar violations between 2008 and 2010 at stores around the country, from Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Fargo, North Dakota, reports the Occupational Safety and Health Reporter.

"This situation is unacceptable," said Dube. "A corporate employer must take effective and proactive steps to assess, correct and prevent the recurrence of hazards at all of its locations."

Walmart released a statement on Tuesday, saying: "The safety of our customers and our associates is a top priority for us and we've put in place policies and training in our stores with that in mind. We're taking these claims seriously and looking into them to determine if any mistakes were made and, if so, what we can do to correct them."

The company is also taking some heat on another front this week. After the electrocution death of a Brazilian immigrant subcontractor doing demolition work at a store in Boston, Romulo de Oliveira Santos' family is trying to hold Walmart accountable for what they call unsafe practices at its construction sites. Walmart is contesting the claims.

Does Goldman's Subprime Trade Violate Volcker?

A test of the Volcker Rule's ability to stop banks from making trades with their own money may be the recent purchase of a $6.2 billion portfolio of subprime mortgage securities by Goldman Sachs (who else?). Back in 2010 the firm infamously paid $550 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it bet against virtually worthless mortgage-backed securities that it was selling to investors.

In this latest deal, Goldman bought the packaged securities from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is unloading assets it gained through the bailout of AIG. Goldman "held the bulk of the portfolio overnight before moving to sell the bonds en masse," according to Reuters. "While there was strong demand from Goldman clients, by doing so the Wall Street bank took the risk of events in Europe roiling markets and the value of those assets falling in a short period of time."

A tough interpretation of the Volcker Rule may ban such trades, Stanford University finance professor Darrell Duffie told Reuters. Goldman insists that the trade was always intended to benefit its clients. And financial writer Cate Long tweeted on Thursday night:

Quick Hits

* "Restaurant A" -- How Bill Marler's Food Safety News tied the salmonella outbreak to Taco Bell.

* A brass foundry in southern Wisconsin was slapped by OSHA with 10 alleged safety violations for failing to protect workers from exposure to metal dust, reports the Chicago Tribune.

* Next week marks the deadline to submit comments on 13 different proposed Dodd-Frank rules, from Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulations on retail commodity transactions to the SEC prohibition against conflicts of interest in some securitizations.

* Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban is due to be deposed today in the SEC's case against him for insider trading.