Wal-Mart Seeks Another Stay in Mexican Bribery Case

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has once again asked a U.S. District Court judge in Arkansas to stay a lawsuit that shareholders filed against it and its directors over allegations of bribery in Mexico.

Wal-Mart had already received one stay in the case that was filed in April 2012 while a lawsuit with similar allegations worked its way through the court system in Delaware.

Both lawsuits were prompted by a 2012 New York Times article that revealed an alleged bribery scheme involving Wal-Mart’s Mexican subsidiary and Mexican government officials.

Attorney John Emerson of Houston, who is one of the attorneys representing the shareholders in the Arkansas case, appealed the first stay. He received a victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in December that the lawsuit could move forward in U.S. District Court in Arkansas. But he wasn’t happy when Wal-Mart filed a motion in January to stay the case again.

“Effectively, they have bogged this case down for almost two years with these tactics,” Emerson wrote in an email to Arkansas Business. “Arkansas plaintiffs have been and continue to be ready to move forward.”

Emerson said he thinks the defense’s strategy is to “shut down” the Arkansas case because it doesn’t want Wal-Mart’s directors to have to face a jury, which it would have to do in Arkansas federal court but not in a Delaware court, he said.

“In our view what has occurred so far in the Wal-Mart derivative case is that the defense has successfully delayed, obfuscated and stonewalled the litigants and the governmental investigators,” Emerson wrote.

Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said last week that the plaintiffs are trying to pursue the litigation in two places at the same time.

“And that’s not in the best interest of the company, our shareholders or the courts,” he said.

And he said the company is not dragging its feet in the cases. He said that the ruling from the 8th Circuit said that the case could be stayed in federal court if it were in the parties’ and the court’s best interest. “We believe the court should issue a stay, which is why we filed our request,” Hargrove said.