Wal-Mart Names Karen Roberts General Counsel

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville said Thursday that Karen Roberts has been promoted to executive vice president and general counsel for the company effective Feb. 1.

She replaces Jeff Gearhart, who will remain at Wal-Mart as its executive vice president and corporate secretary, according to a Wal-Mart news release. Roberts, 42, will report to Gearhart, 48.

"Gearhart will maintain oversight for the legal function in addition to his newly expanded responsibilities for Walmart's compliance, ethics and investigations teams as part of the company's steps to align the functions and further strengthen its global compliance efforts," the company said in the news release.

Wal-Mart still is dealing with the aftermath from an April New York Times article that alleged the retailer's Mexico division paid millions of dollars in bribes to speed its expansion there. The newspaper also said high-level executives knew about the allegations but took no action to notify authorities. 

In November, Wal-Mart announced in a Securities & Exchange Commission filing that investigations into alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act had expanded to other foreign markets, including Brazil, China and India.

Wal-Mart has already spent $99 million related to the investigation, and the retailer has said the final bill could be higher.

Gearhart, the brother to University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart, has been Wal-Mart's general counsel since 2009 and was promoted to corporate secretary in 2010. 

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