New York City Pension Funds file lawsuit against Wal-Mart executives

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NEW YORK — A group of New York City pension funds is suing current and former Wal-Mart executives, saying they mishandled an alleged bribery scheme at the world’s largest retailer.

The group filed a lawsuit on Monday in the Chancery Court of Delaware on behalf of the company itself against the executives.

The goal in such cases, known as “derivative actions,” is to change the way a company is run.

As with other derivative actions, the plaintiffs are asking that any money they win be awarded to Wal-Mart. The funds own 5.6 million shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

This is the latest of at least a dozen such lawsuits filed against Wal-Mart since The New York Times reported in late April that Wal-Mart’s Mexican unit allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to win favors.

The Times said executives didn’t notify authorities even after Wal-Mart found evidence of the scheme.

“Rooting out the directors and executives responsible for the current crisis would be a first step, but Wal-Mart also needs corporate governance reforms and an independent board that will protect outside shareholders and safeguard against another breakdown of internal controls,” said New York City Comptroller Jon Liu in a statement.

The suit names 28 current and former Wal-Mart executives including all its current board members. The board roster includes CEO Mike Duke, former CEO Lee Scott and descendants of the company’s founder, Jim Walton and board Chairman Robson Walton.

The exception is Marissa Mayer, the vice president for local, maps and location services at Google Inc., who was elected to the board for the first time this month.

The suit also names Eduardo Castro-Wright, who is retiring this month as vice chairman but is not on the company’s board. Castro-Wright led Wal-Mart’s Mexico division at the time of the alleged bribery and when the probe began in 2005.

In early May, the New York City Pension Funds urged shareholders to vote at the company’s annual meeting June 1 against the re-electing Duke and four other board members because of the bribery allegations.

All members kept their seats. But Monday’s lawsuit by the New York City Pension Funds comes a week after a final shareholder tally showed discontent rising against key executives and board members, including Duke, over the allegations.

All of the company’s nominees were re-elected. But the rise in votes against key leaders underscores how the bribery case could distract the world’s largest retailer as it tries to continue its sales momentum in the U.S. and overseas.


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