Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is in a bit of a strange situation due to its bribery scandal in Mexico. As the news headlines seemed rather shocking at the time, Wal-Mart’s stock is now higher than when the news broke and is up over 10% from the selling climax prices. And now at Wal-Mart’s shareholder meeting the shareholders voted to reelect all of Wal-Mart’s board members.
What is happening is simple. Mexico is in the past and this may blow over with limited damages. With the economy softening again, Wal-Mart may even win back much of the price-sensitive customers who were able to go elsewhere during good times.
The evidence that the shareholders do not care about the Mexico situation is because the shareholder votes and proposals which were challenging the company’s practices were voted against. This may be a bit more convoluted than just stating that shareholders do not care. The Walton Family has significant influence over the shares due to having a large portion of the votes. Obviously some shareholders care here, but not enough to matter at this time.
Despite the scandal, the New York Times issues brought up go back to 2005 and 2006 and the statute of limitations may limit what can really be done here. It is also hard to find anyone who doesn’t admit that dealing with politicians and getting permits in Mexico is not quite the same as here in the United States.
Chairman S. Robson Walton said that he has instructed a panel of independent investigators to go where the facts lead them, while CEO Mike Duke told shareholders that the most important values are integrity.
Unless charges come from the DOJ, Mexico, or other sources, shareholders seem to not care here.
Wal-Mart shares are down 0.6% at $65.40 against a 52-week high of $66.66 on a day when the DJIA is down 2.4% and on the same day that the market went negative for the 2012.
JON C. OGG