Connecticut joins chorus against Wal-Mart directors over bribery scandal

Denise Nappier
Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier

The $24.7 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, Hartford, will vote its shares against the re-election of seven members of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. board at the company's annual meeting June 1.

The pension system owns $38 million in Wal-Mart stock and bonds.

The vote is in response to allegations that Mexican government officials were bribed by Wal-Mart executives in that country, Denise Nappier, state treasurer and the retirement system's principal fiduciary, said in a news release.

“I am writing to request that Wal-Mart's board of directors take appropriate steps to strengthen its oversight of management in light of recent revelations of bribery in Mexico and management's apparent efforts to cover up the issue,” Ms. Nappier wrote in a May 15 letter to James Breyer, presiding director of Wal-Mart, which was made public Wednesday.

“If the allegations surrounding the Mexican subsidiary are proven true, and the board was unaware of the bribery, then Wal-Mart's board has badly failed its shareholders and must move swiftly to bolster its oversight mechanisms,” Ms. Nappier. “At a minimum, the board must determine who was responsible for failing to keep the board informed and remove them from the company.”

Ms. Nappier will vote the retirement system's shares against re-electing the board's audit committee chairman, Christopher J. Williams, and committee members Aida M. Alvarez, James I. Cash, Jr., and Arne M. Sorenson. She also will vote the shares against re-election of CEO Michael Duke, former CEO H. Lee Scott Jr., and board Chairman S. Robson Walton, the news release said.

Officials at Ms. Nappier's office did not return a call for comment by press time.

On Wednesday, the $229.4 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, said it would vote against nine directors. On Tuesday, the $152.9 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, said it would vote against all 15 directors seeking re-nomination.

A call to Wal-Mart's press office was not returned by press time.