So, what does this flurry of petty thieves departing the ranks of Wal-Mart management tell us about the culture of Wal-Mart? Even the Financial Times chose to give front-page play today to the resignation of Thomas Coughlin as a company director because of an "alleged unauthorized use of corporate-owned gift cards and personal reimbursements that appear to have been obtained from the company through the reporting of false information on third-party invoices and company expense reports. The amount in controversy is estimated to be in the range of $100,000 to $500,000."
Translation: so the guy padded his expense accounts.
What's interesting is that this is a trend at Wal-Mart. In the current investigation, three other employees, including a company officer, were also dismissed. And back in December, three other executives and four employees were fired for violating "unspecified" company rules--one presumes those rules had nothing to do with treating workers badly (that kind of conduct actually calls for promotion or at least a one-time visit to the company's executive washroom) but with other financial wrongdoing.
But, why should this be surprising? The culture of Wal-Mart encourages criminality among its leaders. Think about it: you're an officer or board member and all around you bad behavior, criminal and otherwise, happens every day--women are harrassed and denied fair treatment (witness the class action gender discrimination lawsuit ); workers are illegally fired for trying to form a union and your company spends millions to thwart workers basic rights; your company does deals with the authoritarian regime in China to make sure it has a ready supply of underage, underwaged children to produce its products, no matter that every international standard views working conditions in China as below standard; and, the Walton kids themselves are cheapskates, piling up a vast fortune and giving back a pittance to the community. When you see that, what's a few hundred thousand dollars in inflated expenses, morally speaking? It seems right at home with the culture.