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Wal-Mart annual shareholders meeting sparks protests

May 29, 2012|By Shan Li
  • A Wal-Mart store in Los Angeles.
A Wal-Mart store in Los Angeles. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images )

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is facing an organized wave of protests pushing for changes in leadership at the company's annual shareholders meeting Friday.

Wal-Mart workers and community activists are marching in a Washington, D.C., parade to the retailer's local headquarters Thursday, and also planning to confront executives such as Rob Walton throughout the week.

The goal: to oust board members and push for more corporate transparency in the wake of allegations of widespread bribery in the company's Mexican subsidiary.

The protests are organized by Making Change at Wal-Mart, a campaign anchored by the United Food and Commercial Workers union pushing for better working conditions at the world's largest retailer.

Other groups are also throwing in their vote for change at the shareholders meeting this week.

The $228-billion California Public Employees' Retirement System last week said it was withholding its support for the election of nine Wal-Mart directors pending  "a thorough and independent investigation into the bribery allegations" involving the company's largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico.

The smaller California State Teachers' Retirement System said it would vote against the election of all 16 Wal-Mart directors for similar reasons.

Five New York City pension funds said this month that they would not support some of the Wal-Mart directors.

Allegations that Wal-Mart executives in Mexico paid millions in bribes to government officials there to smooth the way for new stores were first reported in April by the New York Times. Federal law prohibits U.S. corporations from paying bribes in foreign countries. In response, Wal-Mart said it is investigating the matter and wants to have an effective anti-corruption program in every country where it operates.

The results of the directors elections will be announced at Wal-Mart's annual meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., at the University of Arkansas. 


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