In another sign of the growing pressure from Walmart workers and their allies, Walmart announced in its annual proxy statement that two long-time board members will be stepping down. The two board members are former Walmart CEO Lee Scott, Jr. and independent board member and Audit Committee Chairman Christopher Williams.
Members of OUR Walmart and their allies have repeatedly reached out to Williams, asking him to listen to their concerns. In response to his continued lack of leadership, calls began to grow for Williams’ resignation.
OUR Walmart member Barbara Gertz released a statement upon the news that Williams would be stepping down. The statement read, in part, “We hope that the departure of Mr. Williams and Mr. Scott provide an opening for new, independent voices at Walmart. We have been calling on Mr. Williams and other independent members of the board to stand up for change at Walmart. Mr. Williams has refused to listen to our concerns. We called on him to resign because we need board members who recognize and value our experiences.”
Scott and Williams are two of those most heavily implicated in the ongoing investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at Walmart. Scott was CEO during the time that the alleged bribery and apparent cover-up at Walmart’s Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mex, took place.
The New York Times reported that Scott was instrumental in limiting Walmart’s internal investigation and, ultimately, in handing it back to some of the very people who were implicated in the alleged bribery.
In 2013, New York City Comptroller John Liu specifically raised concerns about Scott’s role in squashing the internal investigation and exposing shareholders, including the NYC Pension Funds.
Williams has been on Walmart’s board since 2004 and has been a member of the Audit Committee, the key committee charged with overseeing issues of internal controls and legal compliance, since 2005. Williams has chaired the Audit Committee since 2009. Since the New York Times surfaced the bribery allegations, Williams has consistently received some of the highest “no” votes from institutional investors at Walmart.
OUR Walmart members and allies hope that the addition of Walmart’s new CEO, Doug McMillon, and the departure of two longtime board members signals an ongoing change at the company.