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Former Wal-Mart VP Urges Probe into Handling of Whistleblowers

DALLAS -- An attorney here representing former Wal-Mart v.p. Jared Bowen has asked an Arkansas U.S. Attorney to determine whether the company violated a government mandate to protect whistleblowers.

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas already is investigating Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart regarding use of company money by a former board vice chairman.

Bowen spent 13 years at Wal-Mart, rising from store cashier to v.p. of operations before the company fired him March 30, 2005, according to a statement released yesterday by Bowen's attorney, Steve Kardell of Clouse Dunn Hirsch in Dallas. The termination came after Bowen reported some questionable expenses incurred by his immediate superior, former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin, the statement added.

Bowen believes he was the first person at Wal-Mart ever to openly question the Coughlin expenses, even though he said they went on for several years.

Coughlin resigned from the Wal-Mart's board of directors March 25. An internal Wal-Mart investigation has raised questions about Coughlin's expenditure of between $100,000 and $500,000 in company funds.

"Wal-Mart has an obligation to Jared and all employees to create an environment in which people can come forward, report wrongdoing, and not worry about retaliation," said Kardell. "But in this case, Jared came forward, reported wrongdoing, and the company packed up his things and sent him on his way. Someone will have to explain to me how that's not retaliation."
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