Thursday, June 5, 2014

Another Walmart questioner — in the Arkansas legislature even! During stockholder meeting week!

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 7:09 AM

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Sen. Jason Rapert
of Conway commented positively on Twitter last night about the mailer above, which is being circulated by a group opposing the petition effort to call wet-dry elections in Faulkner, Saline and Craighead Counties. Walmart is part of the retail coalition pushing this effort as well as a statewide effort that has just begun. The mailer — likely the work of beer sellers in Conway County, which benefit hugely from next-door Faulkner County being dry — contains arguments that could have been crafted by one of the unions trying to organize Walmart workers.

Beer sale profits will just go to Walmart corporate headquarters, the postcard says. Many Walmart workers are on public assistance. Corporate execs make huge salaries — the CEO pay of $23 million is 1,000 times that of the median Walmart worker.

Rapert commented on Twitter:

Some interesting points being made on this postcard. I wish Sam Walton was still around....

Criticism of Walmart is normally forbidden in official Arkansas, especially during Walmart stockholders meeting week. It's an expensive, choreographed pep rally that makes employees and stockholders feel contributing team members, as opposed to just tools of the Walton heirs who control the majority of stock. The media might make a mention or two of public protestors who turn out on the sidewalks outside Walmart meeting places during stockholder week, such as those protesting Walmart's use of inhumane pork producers . But you have to look hard for coverage in mainstream media of how U.S. taxpayers subsidize executive pay at Walmart. Or for reports on how Walton Family philanthropy is a multi-billion-dollar tax shelter to enhance profits and control of the Walton heirs, who themselves don't contribute much to the charity.

Maybe Rapert and the Conway County booze boys should pick up some of these other reports and circulate them, too.

AND SPEAKING OF WALMART: The New York Times today chronicles the departure of high-level executives at the company since reporting began of a bribery scandal in the company's international division. Cause and effect? That is the suggestion. The exodus of eight high-level employees included former CEO Lee Scott and Tom Mars, the former Arkansas State Police director who rose to executive vice president and general counsel.

While the circumstances surrounding each executive’s departure are unclear, a pattern has emerged. At least eight of Walmart’s most senior executives in Mexico, India and Bentonville, Ark., have left the company since the latter part of 2011, when Walmart learned of The Times’s investigation. In the same two years, the company has revamped its global compliance program. In a move that swims against the current of Walmart’s corporate culture, the company has increased its compliance staff by more than 30 percent, to 2,000 people, in that short time.

Other changes the company has made — including mandating that any potential foreign corruption violations be reported to corporate headquarters and the board — may make it more difficult for senior executives to plead ignorance in the future.

It is in Walmart’s interest, particularly as it negotiates with federal prosecutors, to show how it has strengthened its compliance efforts.

Jason Rapert wishes Sam Walton was still around. Three of his children are and they still call the shots through their Walmart stock ownership. Rapert could buy a share of stock, plunk himself down in the audience in Fayetteville Friday and start asking questions: Beer in Faulkner County; taxpayer subsidies of executive pay; tax shelters to dodge estate taxes; animal cruelty; foreign bribery. It's a good list.

PS — Rapert received $4,000 in campaign contributions from the lobbyists for the Conway County alcohol sellers.

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