Dec 20 Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which is
facing bribery investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice
and the Securities and Exchange Commission, named a new general
counsel, Karen Roberts, effective Feb. 1, 2013.
Roberts replaces Jeff Gearhart, who now oversees the retail
giant's legal functions as well as its newly expanded compliance
Roberts, 42, has been with Wal-Mart for 17 years and will be
responsible for "all legal matters affecting the company in its
domestic and international markets," the company said in a
In October, Wal-Mart announced that the company's
compliance, ethics, investigations and legal units would all
report as of Dec. 1 to Gearhart, executive vice president and
corporate secretary. At the same time, Wal-Mart named former
Sidley Austin partner Jay Jorgensen to the newly-created
position of global chief compliance officer.
The U.S. Justice Department and the SEC are looking into
allegations of widespread bribery at Wal-Mart's Mexican
affiliate, Walmex. The probes are seeking to
determine whether Wal-Mart violated the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act, which prohibits bribes to foreign officials.
Roberts currently serves as president of Walmart Realty for
Walmart U.S. She also previously oversaw compliance for the
company's U.S. operations and has served as general counsel for
U.S. real estate and construction.
On Monday, the New York Times published a report saying that
the retailer opened some 19 stores in Mexico allegedly by using
hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to achieve what local
laws otherwise prohibited.
The report indicated that the alleged bribes were a
substantial part of how Wal-Mart's Mexican affiliate conducted
business, and not simply routine payments used to speed up
approvals, which are allowed under U.S. law.
Because the alleged bribes appeared to be part of the
affiliate's business methods, Wal-Mart could face sizable fines,