A lawsuit filed Thursday in Benton County reopens a topic that dragged Walmart through the headlines for years — its past business practices in Mexico.
Last June, Walmart brought to a close a seven-year federal investigation by pleading to a charge related to bribing foreign officials. It paid $282 million in fines. The New York Times account noted, among others, that Walmart donated cars and computers to governments in Mexican communities where it wanted to open stores. Said the Times:
The investigation, which was conducted by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, came after The New York Times revealed in 2012 that Walmart had made suspicious payments to officials in Mexico and then tried to conceal them from top executives at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. And even when the issues reached the main office, an internal investigation essentially went nowhere.
Now comes a lawsuit against Walmart Stores in Benton County Circuit Court by Shane Perry, a lawyer for Walmart for 15 years until his firing in 2017 and a former Bentonville City Council member. He was an ethics and compliance officer for his last three years with the company.
The suit contends he was terminated for refusing to change a memo he’d written about activities in Mexico to reduce its liability in the investigation of foreign practices. The suit is also brought in the name of his four children, whom Perry contends were dragged into a retaliatory Walmart investigation to dig up dirt on him. It says they were questioned about whether he’d beaten them, an allegation that the suit says arose from an innocent remark to a co-worker about mild use of corporal punishment.
Perry said he investigated matters in Mexico in 2011 for the company and wrote a memo about it, but never heard a word about the memo until five years later. But when company lawyers began questioning him about it, he recognized his job was in peril. He contends he was investigated on unrelated matters at the company to destroy the credibility of his Mexican memo of 2011.
Robert Trammell of Little Rock is Perry’s lawyer in the case. Perry’s LinkedIn account describes him today as being self-employed as a lawyer.
I’ve sent a question about the lawsuit to Walmart’s media relations department.
UPDATE: Walmart response:
“Mr. Perry’s termination was due to violation of our ethics, discrimination and harassment policies and had nothing to do with his work on our seven-year FCPA Investigation. The allegations are without merit and we will defend the company against the claims.”
CORRECTION: Walmart points out that I mischaracterized the settlement of the federal probe in the original post. A spokesman said it was incorrect to say the company had pleaded guilty to bribery:
This is what we said last June: WMT Brasilia S.a.r.l., an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Walmart, has entered a guilty plea in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia as part of the agreement with the DOJ for causing a books and records violation of the FCPA.
No criminal charges were filed against Walmart Inc. It was WMT Brasilia S.a.r.l. that entered a guilty plea and not Walmart Inc. so saying Walmart pled guilty is not correct.