Inside This Issue - News
Walmart takes the high road
June 11th, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Walmart will run all facets of its business with integrity, chief executive Mike Duke and chairman Rob Walton vowed at the company’s annual shareholders meeting earlier this month.
The retailer is committed to corporate scruples “everywhere that we operate,” said Duke, “and we are working to continually strengthen this.”
Addressing allegations of endemic bribery by Walmart in Mexico, Duke said, “I want to personally assure you we’re doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this matter and we will take the appropriate actions when the investigations are complete.”
Addressing employees, he added, “If you work for Walmart there is no gray area between right and wrong. It’s either the right thing to do or we shouldn’t do it at all. This is my standard. This was Sam Walton’s standard.”
Rob Walton said the company has a history of holding itself and its employees to “the highest standards of integrity.” He said Sam Walton, his father and the company’s founder, believed “how we succeed will continue to be as important as success itself.”
Walmart’s board of directors is taking the bribery charges “very seriously,” he said. The board’s audit committee, composed solely of independent directors, “is using every resource necessary to ensure a thorough and comprehensive inquiry and has instructed the independent investigators to go where the facts lead them.”
The chain is also cooperating with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to find out what happened, he added.
The bribery allegations led the $228 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System to withhold support for the election of nine Walmart directors, and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to say it would vote against 16 candidates for the board. Five New York City pension funds also said they would oppose some board members.
The opposition was largely symbolic, since the Walton family controls about half of the retailer’s 3.4 billion shares. Rob Walton announced at the end of the meeting that all the candidates for the board were elected.
Three shareholder proposals relating to political contributions, the board’s makeup and executive compensation were voted down.
Jennifer O’Dell, representing the Central Laborers’ Pension Fund, called for greater transparency for corporate political contributions. She noted that Walmart is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is working to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which outlaws bribing officials outside the country.
The meeting was suffused with reminiscences of Walmart’s 50-year history, starting with Rob Walton and siblings Jim and Alice speaking in front of a picture of the original store in Rogers, Ark.