WaL-MART Stores chief executive Mike Duke told employees and shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Friday that the retailer, whose executives are accused of bribing Mexican officials, was committed to ethical behaviour.
Speaking before 14 000 people, Duke addressed an ongoing bribery investigation by the US Justice Department and US Securities and Exchange Commission.
He said the world’s largest retailer had been built by founder Sam Walton on a foundation of ethics and trust and would continue to behave that way.
His comments followed similar statements by Rob Walton, the company’s chairman and son of the founder.
For the first time since acknowledging an investigation into bribery allegations in April, Duke spoke about the accusations and demanded ethical behaviour from his company. He said the retailer was investigating the allegations and would get to the bottom of the matter.
“It’s either the right thing to do or we won’t do it at all,” Duke said. “This is my standard. This was Sam Walton’s standard. We will not accept anything less than integrity.”
The company said all 15 directors were re-elected and one new director, Marissa Mayer, the vice-president of local and maps for Google, was elected to the board. The Walton family owns more than 47 percent of the stock, effectively controlling the voting power of the shareholder base.
The meeting also included two proposals asking for more clarity from the company. One proposal asked for more transparency on the executive bonus structure, while another called for more disclosure of political donations. Both proposals, and another that sought to nominate a director with health care experience to the board, were rejected.
The comments from Duke and Walton came after several state pension funds recommended that shareholders vote against some or all of the board members.
“This goes to the core of how the company is run,” said Charles Elson, the executive director of the John L Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.
“People have questioned their employment practices and that kind of thing in the past, but this is alleging real problems in oversight and management.”