Wal-Mart Denies Fired Executive's Whistleblower Claim

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. here said Friday that the former Wal-Mart v.p. who asked to be protected as a whistleblower was actually part of a scheme to defraud the company.

Jared Bowen, the former v.p., has asked the U.S. attorney's office in Fort Smith, Ark., to determine whether the company violated a government mandate to protect whistleblowers. Bowen claims he was terminated after he reported some questionable expenses incurred by his immediate superior, former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin. Bowen says 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 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.

The Associated Press cited Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams as saying Bowen admitted during interviews he had approved transactions that violated company policy and then remained silent for months, rather than step forward.

Another associate alerted the company that Coughlin was allegedly using Wal-Mart gift cards improperly, Williams said.

Coughlin's attorney has said Coughlin denies any wrongdoing.

Williams provided a scripted statement that had been vetted by company lawyers. According to the statement, Bowen was "terminated because he, along with others, assisted Tom Coughlin in a scheme to defraud the company. Additionally, once the investigation began, he did not give a complete and accurate account of his knowledge and involvement in multiple transactions. As (a company) officer he had the highest fiduciary duty to the company."
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