Walmart administrative assistant Chalace Eply Lowry was hired by the company in January 2007 soon after she filed a complaint against a vice-president of corporate communications, Mona Williams for the possibility of an ethics issue. Lowry was asked by Williams to copy papers that she thought were related to stocks, and a few days later it was announced that Walmart was planning a $15 billion stock buyback, and she was concerned that Williams may have used insider information to exercise her stock options and make money off of the buyback. Walmart responded that Lowry was simply confused and that she mistook a deferred compensation form for an options exercise request and that there was no wrong-doing by Williams. Soon after she filed for the complaint, her identity was disclosed to Williams, something Walmart claimed Lowry agreed to. Lowry, however, stated that she was never given a choice, and subsequently requested a transfer to another department. Walmart then gave her 90 days to find another job within the company, and human resources officials told her that they would have to discuss “next steps” if she couldn’t in time – meaning she would be fired.
I found this to be an interesting response to Lowry’s complaint, and I am surprised that Walmart would take such a powerful stance against someone who is trying to reveal potential ethics issues within the company, especially at a time when Walmart was being scrutinized for their firing of marketing executive Julie Roehm for reportedly violating the company’s code of ethics by accepting gifts from vendors and for having an affair with a subordinate, both of which she denies. In a follow-up article in October (Businessweek: Wal-Mart Whistleblower Lands a Job), Businessweek reported that she found a job after 4 months of looking and 30 applications to in-house jobs.