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Wal-Mart manager starts Web petition seeking change

The move by a worker at a Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera comes after allegations of bribery in Mexico. The petition calls for an independent investigation and the resignation of the firm's chairman and CEO.

May 09, 2012|By Shan Li, Los Angeles Times

Weeks after news about Wal Mart Stores Inc.'s alleged bribery and coverup in Mexico surfaced, rank-and-file workers at the world's largest retailer have taken their calls for change to the Internet.

Venanzi Luna, a department manager at a Wal-Mart store in Pico Rivera, has created an online petition for fellow employees and customers at Change.org, a website that seeks to promote social change. The petition urges Wal-Mart to undertake "a thorough and independent investigation" into allegations of widespread bribery by company officials to gain approval for new stores in Mexico.

The Bentonville, Ark., company said it was in the midst of a "worldwide review of our anti-corruption program," had increased efforts to prevent corruption in Mexico and was looking into the allegations of bribery.

The petition, which has gathered more than 13,000 signatures, also calls for the resignation of Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke and Chairman S. Robson Walton.

"Just because they are rich doesn't mean they don't have to follow the same rules and laws as everyone else," said Luna, 33, of South Gate. "I love my job, and I want Wal-Mart to succeed. And the way they succeed is by doing the right thing."

Luna estimates that about 80% of the petition signers are former or current Wal-Mart employees who are fed up with the company's culture of expansion at all costs.

"I am not trying to close [Wal-Mart] down. I am trying to put it how Sam Walton had it before," said Luna, who has worked at the company for seven years. "It used to be a family environment. Now it's all about money."

Allegations that bribery was used routinely to smooth the way for Wal-Mart's expansion in Mexico were first reported in April by the New York Times.

Since the report, Wal-Mart has been wrangling with a number of legal and financial aftershocks.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System is suing Wal-Mart executives and board members and seeking changes in the company's corporate governance. Last week, a group of New York City pension funds said they would vote against reelecting five Wal-Mart directors.

Mexican government agencies and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the bribery allegations.

Wal-Mart shares plunged nearly 9% in the days after the report but have recovered slightly. Shares of the company closed at $59.05, down 5.5% from its 52-week high of $62.48 in February.

shan.li@latimes.com

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