Wal-Mart, Julie Roehm, DraftFCB and Raspberry Vodka

22 March 2007

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: The solar system's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has revealed its reasons for December's firing of former marketing communications boss Julie Roehm.

Also why it reversed its decision to appoint Interpublic Group's DraftFCB to handle its $580 million (€436.38m; £296.22m) ad account.

The grounds for those decisions were filed Tuesday in a Detroit federal court in response to Roehm's lawsuit against the retailer seeking damages for wrongful dismissal.

Aiming straight for the jugular, the good ol' boys from Bentonville fired a fusillade of accusations against their former employee.

They accuse Roehm of breaching her fiduciary duties to her employer, citing in particular an "overly close" relationship with DraftFCB during the account review process.

They also accuse Roehm of repeatedly breaching Wal-Mart's strict ban on accepting gifts from suppliers, pointing to free drinks and meals allegedly worth more than $2,000.

In an e-mail Wal-Mart said was from DraftFCB's Tony Weisman to his chairman Howard Draft, the former suggested sending Roehm a case of Effen raspberry vodka, noting that on a night out "she put away a bottle . . . and doesn't seem troubled by [Wal-Mart's] gift restriction policies."

Wal-Mart claimed in its court filing: "[Roehm] did not merely fail to avoid conflicts of interest; she invited them."

It also alleges that she misused corporate funds to take business trips with her deputy Sean Womack, a married man with whom she was having an affair.

Roehm's very public stance since her firing is that she had been appointed by Wal-Mart as "a change agent" but in fulfilling that role she fell foul of the company's buttoned-up business culture.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff