Mike Duke, the CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said on Friday that the company is committed to integrity despite the recent bribery allegations levied against the company in Mexico. The company held its annual meeting Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In attendance with Duke was Chairman Robson Walton, who is the son of the company’s founder, Sam Walton.
“We’ve all heard about the recent allegations about the company,” Duke said. There were close to 16,000 people in attendance. “Let me be clear: Wal-Mart is committed to compliance and integrity everywhere we operate. I want to personally assure you, we’re doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this matter.”
The meeting was supposed to be a celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary but the executives in attendance had to continually reassure shareholders that the company will continue to practice integrity as it expands across the world. The annual meeting ended a weeklong schedule of events. The bribery scandal was unearthed in April and it involves a failure on the part of the company to alert law enforcement officials of bribes in Mexico. The company is now being investigated by federal authorities in Mexico and the United States. Some of the top executives at the company have been sued by investors while shareholders are asking board members to resign. Duke, Walton and former CEO Lee Scott are all being pressured to resign.
According to raw results from the meeting Friday, all of the directors that were up for re-election were re-elected to their positions on the board. The final election results will not be announced until Monday. The descendants of Sam Walton, the founder of the company, own roughly 50 percent of the company’s shares.
The final count will determine if a vote of over 10 percent against elected members was taken. If this happened, it would be a message to the company to make a change. Michael Garland represents the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which monitors the pension funds for New York. This group owns 5.6 million shares of Wal-Mart and voted against five board members up for re-election. Those voted against by the group include Duke and Scott.
The meeting was held at the basketball arena at the University of Arkansas, which is 30 miles from Bentonville, the company’s headquarters. Walton said, “It’s a family business. It’s just grown a lot.”
The event was hosted by Justin Timberlake with musical performances by Celine Dion, Lionel Richie, Taylor Swift, Take 6 and Juanes. The company was expecting protestors during the meeting but nothing materialized.
“Some folks want to interrupt our meeting, but we’re hoping they respect all of you,” Walton said. “But don’t be surprised if we do have some interruption.”