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Wal-Mart announced that it has canceled the retirement package that was rewarded/earned by its former vice chairman, Tom Coughlin, citing the longtime company officer and former buddy of founder Sam Walton for “gross misconduct.” The move will cost Coughlin millions of dollars in benefits, including stock awards and incentive payments.

Coughlin retired as vice chairman of the company last year, then was forced to resign from the board of directors last March amid charges of financial impropriety, including bilking the company out of thousands of dollars through the use of fraudulent expense reports. After conducting an internal probe that management said revealed Coughlin’s transgressions, Wal-Mart turned the evidence over the federal authorities for further investigation by a grand jury.

Wal-Mart sent a letter to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week saying that it was firing Coughlin retroactively. The letter accused Coughlin of "a scheme to misappropriate corporate funds and property for his own personal benefit."

Coughlin and his attorneys have maintained that he was not stealing money from Wal-Mart, but rather was using the money to pay off employees who were acting as informants on unionization efforts – which, if true, also would be likely to get attention from federal authorities.
KC's View:
What a mess.

The interesting thing here is that it isn’t like Wal-Mart and Coughlin are telling two slightly different versions of the truth. Their stories differ radically – which, you’d have to think, means that at some point one party is going to be proven to be lying. Coughlin will be proven guilty of stealing and then lying about paying off informants, or Wal-Mart will be proven guilty of paying off informants and then lying and trying to pass the buck.

Either way, it isn’t going to look good for someone.