Calsters says Wal-Mart top leadership in question

Fri May 4, 2012 2:12pm EDT

A general view of a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City, April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

A general view of a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City, April 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

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(Reuters) - The second largest U.S. public pension fund on Thursday said that allegations of bribery in Mexico and a cover up by top management at Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) raises the question of whether top leadership should remain in place at the company.

But officials with the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which sued Wal-Mart current and former executives on Thursday, stopped short of calling for CEO Mike Duke to step down.

"The leadership question is on the table," Jack Ehnes, CEO of CalSTRS, which holds more than 5.3 million Wal-Mart shares, said during a conference call with reporters on Friday when asked whether Duke, a defendant in the lawsuit, should step down.

But he also said that the purpose of the lawsuit was to determine whether the alleged actions occurred and declined to say specifically whether Duke should leave the CEO post.

The lawsuit stems from a New York Times article last month that reported Wal-Mart de Mexico (WALMEXV.MX), which is 69 percent owned by Wal-Mart, orchestrated a widespread bribery campaign to win market dominance in the last decade

The article alleged senior Wal-Mart executives knew about the matter and tried to cover it up. Duke was head of Wal-Mart's international business during part of the time covered by the article.

A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment on Ehnes statement about Wal-Mart's leadership.

(Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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