Wal-Mart names Roberts general counsel amid Mexico bribery probe

story by Bloomberg News and The City Wire

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. named Karen Roberts general counsel to replace Jeff Gearhart, who will take on new duties related to the company’s global compliance efforts following allegations of bribery in Mexico.

Roberts, 42, a 17-year veteran of the company who now handles Wal-Mart’s real estate operations, will start the new role on Feb. 1, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said today in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating allegations that Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials so it could more quickly open stores in the country. Wal-Mart said in November it also has started inquiries into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Brazil, India and China.

Former general counsel Gearhart, 48, will continue to oversee the legal department in his role as executive vice president and corporate secretary. In addition, he will be involved with Wal-Mart’s compliance, ethics and investigations teams, the company said.

“Karen’s humility, transparency and collaboration embody the leadership qualities we look for at Walmart,” Gearhart said in the statement. “She is an extremely talented professional whose integrity, breadth of experience, and knowledge of Walmart make her uniquely qualified for this important role. Karen’s legal background and previous responsibilities directing our U.S. compliance and real estate functions provide an important perspective for overseeing the complex legal issues we deal with every day in our business.”

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Roberts joined Walmart in 1995 and has held various leadership positions that included vice president and general counsel for U.S. real estate and construction.

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