Bank of America Retreat, Wal-Mart Advance Proceeds Apace

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NEW YORK (TheStreet)--Wal-Mart(WMT) is not a bank, Wal-Mart is not a bank, Wal-Mart is not a bank.

And yet, as Bank of America(BAC) , which some have called the Wal-Mart of banking, continues to shrink, it gets harder and harder not to notice that Wal-Mart's ties to the banking industry keep getting bigger.

The latest sign of Wal-Mart's banking bust-out can be seen in a recently-announced purchase of 29 Bank of America Midwestern branches by Arvest Bank.

Arvest, which has more than $11 billion in assets and is the largest bank in both Arkansas and Oklahoma, is owned by the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, and Arvest CEO and Chairman Jim Walton is the youngest son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

Still, Wal-Mart and Arvest are completely separate corporate entities. Nudge nudge.

Wal-Mart's official efforts to start a bank have been rejected or stymied on at least four occasions since 1999, according to this 2007 Associated Press article .

You'd never know it, considering that big U.S. banks own all kinds of non-banking assets, but banking and commerce are suppose to be separate by law.

Neither that fact, nor Wal-Mart's stymied efforts to become a bank through official channels, have stopped Wal-Mart's efforts to extend its bland, union-busting dominance into the financial services arena.

The retail giant's most visible recent effort to become a financial services power is through the launch earlier this year in a partnership with American Express(AXP) , of a pre-paid card known as Bluebird.

Rest assured, both that and these barely-noticed branch acquisitions by Arvest are only the beginning.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.