Walmart’s legal troubles over its past Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations have resurfaced once again. This time, a former member of Walmart’s legal team is suing the retail company for what he alleges was a “retaliatory, negligent, and careless” investigation ultimately resulting in wrongful termination.
Shane Perry worked at Walmart in increasing roles of responsibility from 2002 until being fired in 2017. At the time of his firing, he was senior director in Walmart’s U.S. ethics and compliance division. His lawsuit, filed in Arkansas Circuit Court on May 7, regards his former role as a member of Walmart’s legal team.
According to the lawsuit, Perry was assigned by Walmart to investigate allegations of FCPA violations in Mexico in July 2011 and further was dispatched to Mexico to meet with top management of Walmart de Mexico in November of that year. Following a four-day investigation, he submitted a report to Walmart senior management summarizing what he had learned and referenced financial data from their Mexican corporate records.
Details of that report weren’t disclosed in the complaint, but trouble publicly began to brew in 2011, when Walmart first disclosed the discovery of potential FCPA violations. This was followed by a damning report published in the New York Times in 2012, painting a portrait of widescale corruption and bribery at the company. In June 2019, Walmart reached a combined $282.7 million settlement to resolve the FCPA allegations and ultimately overhauled its ethics and compliance function.
Perry’s complaint offers another side of the story. He alleges that he didn’t receive any follow-up from Walmart regarding his findings until five years later. During this time, Perry continued to work on the global FCPA investigation until August 2014, when he was transferred to Mexico City to become ethics officer for Walmart de Mexico, before returning to corporate headquarters in Arkansas in July 2016 in what would be his last role as senior director in Walmart’s U.S. ethics and compliance division.
The heart of Perry’s complaint alleges that, when he was contacted five years later to discuss the Mexico memo, he was ultimately fired for refusing to make changes to the content in the memo. The complaint, however, does not expressly state that he was asked to alter the memo, only that he “felt intimidated and threatened, even as a lawyer.”
Further down in the complaint, Perry vaguely alleges that Walmart “attempted to induce Perry to change a five-year-old memo to illegally, fraudulently, and unethically reduce the defendant’s risk and liability in the FCPA matter.” Moreover, he alleged he was terminated in July 2017 “in a ruthless fashion based on information carelessly gathered and processed at the orders of senior management for punishment and retaliation.”
Walmart denies the allegations. In a statement to the Arkansas Times, which broke the story of Perry’s lawsuit, Walmart said, “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.”