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Wal-Mart has gone public, through a filing with the US Department of Labor, with details of the financial fraud that it says former vice chairman Thomas Coughlin perpetrated against the company before his forced resignation from the company’s board.

At the same time, Wal-Mart is looking to discredit Jared Bowen, the former executive with the company who claims to have blown the whistle on Coughlin’s activities, and who Wal-Mart terminated for having participated in Coughlin’s activities. The company now says that another employee, not Bowen, disclosed Coughlin’s illegal activities to management.

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Wal-Mart claims that “Mr. Coughlin in May 2004 asked Mr. Bowen for 51 Wal-Mart gift cards, each with a value of $100. He said they would be given to that year's ‘All-Stars,’ who were generally lower-level employees recognized for superior performance.

“Wal-Mart said Mr. Coughlin used the gift cards himself at Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Club outlets, at one point spending $1,000 toward three 12-gauge shotguns. A company spokeswoman said Wal-Mart was able to track all the purchases, saying Mr. Coughlin also used the cards to buy puppy chow, a Celine Dion compact disc, Stolichnaya vodka, wine, a $319 fishing license, a rifle case and a $3.54 Polish sausage.”

Wal-Mart also says that over a decade, Coughlin was improperly reimbursed for such items as a $8,500 all-terrain vehicle, a $10,000 customized hunting vehicle and more than $30,000 for hunting leases.

Coughlin has been claiming that he used the money to make under-the-table payments to company employees who were informing on unionization activities. Wal-Mart says that it has found no evidence that Coughlin used any of the money for those purposes.
KC's View:
The one thing that continues to make no sense about this case is that the two sides have dramatically different stories – and one of the two sides must know that it is lying. When the investigations are concluded, someone or something is going to be proven not just to be guilty, but also to be liars.

While we wait to find out who or what, we can content ourselves with the (possibly fictional) image of Tom Coughlin, sitting on the porch of his hunting lodge, surrounded by his dogs, holding a shotgun in his lap while listening to Celine Dion CDs, drinking vodka and nibbling on Polish sausage while thinking how great it is to have the number two job with the world’s biggest retailer and be able to get all this stuff for nothing.

Warms your heart, doesn’t it?