retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There is an interesting piece in the New York Times that essentially suggests that Walmart has been cooking the books - not in any sort of illegal way, but enough to allow senior executives to qualify for bonuses that they might not otherwise have received, based on company performance.

An excerpt:

"Each year, when measuring top executives’ performance for pay purposes, the company says it makes various 'adjustments' to its recorded financial results. In 2014, those adjustments resulted in better performance than reported in the audited statements. That enhanced performance meant higher incentive pay for executives."

What makes this interesting is that the executives seem to be doing better at a time when the company's stock price has "flatlined," its customers seem to looking for alternatives (such as Aldi) for lower prices, and its employees say that their hours are being cut because of the tougher times.

To be clear, Walmart says it has done nothing wrong. And the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seems to be on its side.

But there is at least a legitimate question being asked here about corporate governance, and you can read all about it here.
KC's View:
One thing I found fascinating about the Times story was this quote from Walmart spokesman David Tovar, who said that the adjustments were intended to encourage executives to make the right decisions for the business. “For example, we don’t want a delay in restructuring or store closings to be influenced because management could take into consideration how it might impact their bonus,” he said.

Really?

Because if you didn't make the adjustments, and an executive made a decision so that his or her bonus would be protected rather than for the good of the business, wouldn't that be a firing offense? If that is the degree to which Walmart has confidence in its executives - that it has to juggle the books to protect their bonuses as a way of defending against a corporate environment in which executives manage only to serve their own personal needs - then I think they have some serious soul searching to do in Bentonville.