New director will face FCPA issues and Walmart’s labor problems

Pam Craig

Pam Craig

It got buried amid news of Black Friday protests and the elevation of company insider Doug McMillon to CEO, but Walmart announced on November 22 that Pam Craig, the recently-retired CFO of Accenture, would join the company’s Board of Directors immediately.

Craig will join Jim Cash (who doesn’t seem to notice that Walmart’s business model is broken), Chris Williams (who was on the audit committee when allegations of bribery first surfaced), and Tim Flynn (who may be slightly occupied with JPMorgan matters) on the Board’s Audit committee. This committee, despite the fact that its members failed to ensure proper internal controls in the first place and ignored repeated calls from shareholders to beef up compliance standards, is charged with the internal investigation of allegations of systematic bribery in the company’s Mexico division. Plus they are getting paid extra for their troubles.

In Craig, Walmart gains a “financial expert” who has experience with both domestic and international business operations. Walmart may also try to draw on her knowledge of technology as it struggles to catch up to the likes of Amazon in e-commerce.

And in Walmart, Craig gains hundreds of thousands of dollars in director compensation, of course, as well as company shares. But more immediately, she faces a growing, complicated, and increasingly expensive FCPA/bribery investigation that apparently has no end in sight. (In the third quarter of this year, Walmart reported that it spent $69 million on FCPA-related matters, bringing its total reported FCPA spending to $381 million.) Among her fellow board members are at least three people—Rob Walton, Mike Duke, and Lee Scott—who were personally made aware of the bribery allegations, according to the New York Times, and who led the company as senior management allegedly stymied an internal investigation into the allegations.

Craig also will inevitably face Walmart’s mounting labor problems. On Black Friday, days after a federal government agency said it is ready to prosecute Walmart for violations of labor law, tens of thousands of people protested outside of Walmart stores, in support of members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart who are calling on Walmart to respect its associates and commit to improving wages, benefits, and scheduling. OUR Walmart’s efforts have put Walmart front and center in the national conversation about income inequality and the unsustainability of low-road, low-wage employers. Craig once told LEADERS magazine that “listening is one of the most important things we have to do as leaders.” Will she choose to listen to Walmart associates’ concerns and ideas on how to make Walmart better? Or will she sit by silently, as Marissa Mayer and other directors have tried to do?

What do you think?