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Support Wanes for Four Wal-Mart Directors

More than 15 percent of shareholders at annual meeting vote to unseat former ceo Lee Scott.

Efforts to shake up Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s board fell short last week, but support for four board members — including president and chief executive officer Mike Duke and chairman S. Robson Walton — waned significantly in the wake of the retailer’s Mexican bribery scandal.

Investors holding about 91.6 percent of Wal-Mart’s stock were represented at the company’s annual meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., last week. And of the votes cast, 13.1 percent were in favor of removing Duke from the board, while 12.6 percent voted to remove Walton.

 

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Additionally, 15.7 percent of the votes at the meeting were cast against the reelection of former ceo H. Lee Scott. It was during under his tenure that Wal-Mart’s Mexican unit allegedly paid bribes to speed its expansion.

And audit committee member Christopher Williams saw 13.3 percent of the vote come down against his reelection.

Last year, the board was elected with 98 percent of the vote.

New York City comptroller John Liu, who controls the city’s pension fund and its 5.6 million shares of Wal-Mart, tried to rally other shareholders to unseat the directors.

“The results are a vote of no confidence that sends a message to Wal-Mart’s entire board, which has ignored our concerns and failed to safeguard the company’s standards of ethical and legal compliance,” Liu said Monday. “It’s up to the board now to restore investor confidence. Directors need to increase their independence and initiate a truly independent investigation into reports that Wal-Mart executives covered-up widespread bribery in Mexico and hold accountable any executives involved.”

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which holds more than 5.3 million Wal-Mart shares, said prior to the meeting that it would not support any of the company’s directors for reelection.

It was always a longshot that the board’s make up would change since the family of founder Sam Walton controls 49.8 percent of the company’s 3.4 billion shares outstanding.