Thomas Coughlin, who was paid more than $15 million as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s vice chairman in the last two years, looted the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars to reimburse himself for personal items ranging from underwear to puppy chow, the company claims in a lawsuit.
Coughlin used the retailer’s coffers to subsidize personal expenses small and large for a five-year period beginning in 1997, Wal-Mart said in a complaint filed yesterday in Benton County Circuit Court in Arkansas. The suit seeks to void his retirement agreement with the company and make him return about $5 million in pay and bonuses. Coughlin retired in January as the company’s No. 2 executive and resigned as a director in March.
The 124-page suit claims Coughlin and “a small group of carefully loyal subordinates” misappropriated “hundreds of thousands of dollars and property for his personal benefit through various schemes” including forged invoices and corporate gift cards meant to reward workers. It details the lengths the world’s largest retailer went to root out the alleged wrongdoing and report it to authorities including the U.S. Attorney in Fort Smith, Arkansas, after an internal probe.