The Company is involved in a number of legal proceedings. The Company has made accruals with respect to these matters, where appropriate, which are reflected in the Company's Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements. For some matters, a liability is not probable or the amount cannot be reasonably estimated and therefore an accrual has not been made. However, where a liability is reasonably possible and may be material, such matters have been disclosed. The Company may enter into discussions regarding settlement of these matters, and may enter into settlement agreements, if it believes settlement is in the best interest of the Company and its shareholders.
Unless stated otherwise, the matters discussed below, if decided adversely to or settled by the Company, individually or in the aggregate, may result in a liability material to the Company's financial condition or results of operations.
ASDA Equal Value Claims
ASDA Stores Ltd. ("Asda"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company, is a defendant in over 10,000 equal value ("Equal Value") claims that begun in 2008 and are proceeding before an Employment Tribunal in Manchester (the "Employment Tribunal") in the United Kingdom ("UK") on behalf of current and former Asda store employees, and further claims may be asserted in the future. The claimants allege that the work performed by female employees in Asda's retail stores is of equal value in terms of, among other things, the demands of their jobs compared to that of male employees working in Asda's warehouse and distribution facilities, and that the disparity in pay between these different job positions is not objectively justified. As a result, claimants are requesting differential back pay based on higher wage rates in the warehouse and distribution facilities and higher wage rates on a prospective basis.
On March 23, 2015, Asda asked the Employment Tribunal to stay all proceedings and to "strike out" substantially all of the claims because the claimants had not adhered to the Tribunal's procedural rule for including multiple claimants on the same claim form. On July 23, 2015, the Employment Tribunal denied Asda's requests. Following additional proceedings, on June 20, 2017, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled in favor of Asda on the "strike out" issue and remitted the matter to the Employment Tribunal to determine whether the improperly filed claims should be struck out. On July 12, 2017, claimants sought permission from the Court of Appeals to appeal this ruling, which was granted on October 3, 2017. A hearing before the Court of Appeals is scheduled for October 23, 2018.
As to the initial phase of the Equal Value claims, on October 14, 2016, following a preliminary hearing, the Employment Tribunal ruled that claimants could compare their positions in Asda's retail stores with those of employees in Asda's warehouse and distribution facilities. On August 31, 2017, the Employment Appeal Tribunal affirmed the Employment Tribunal's ruling. The Employment Appeal Tribunal also granted permission for Asda to appeal substantially all of its findings on August 31, 2017. Asda sought permission to appeal the remainder of the Employment Appeal Tribunal's findings to the Court of Appeals on September 21, 2017. A hearing before the Court of Appeals is scheduled for October 10, 2018.
Claimants are now proceeding in the next phase of their claims. That phase will determine whether the work performed by the claimants is of equal value to the work performed by employees in Asda's warehouse and distribution facilities.
At present, the Company cannot predict the number of such claims that may be filed, and cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from these proceedings. The Company believes it has substantial factual and legal defenses to these claims, and intends to defend the claims vigorously.
National Prescription Opiate Litigation and Related Matters
In December 2017, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered numerous lawsuits filed against a wide array of defendants by various plaintiffs be consolidated, including counties, cities, healthcare providers, Native American tribes, and third-party payors, asserting claims generally concerning the impacts of widespread opioid abuse. The consolidated multidistrict litigation is entitled In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation (MDL No. 2804), and is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The Company is named as a defendant in some of the cases included in this multidistrict litigation. Similar cases that name the Company have been filed in state courts by various counties and municipalities; by health care providers; and by various Native American Tribes. The relief sought by various plaintiffs is compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief including abatement. The Company cannot predict the number of such claims that may be filed, and cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from such claims. The Company believes it has substantial factual and legal defenses to these claims, and intends to defend the claims vigorously. The Company has also been responding to subpoenas, information requests and investigations from governmental entities related to nationwide controlled substance dispensing practices involving the sale of opioids. The Company can provide no assurance as to the scope and outcome of these matters and no assurance as to whether its business, financial condition or results of operations will not be materially adversely affected.
FCPA Investigation and Related Matters
The Audit Committee (the "Audit Committee") of the Board of Directors of the Company has been conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with foreign subsidiaries, including Wal-Mart de México, S.A.B. de C.V. ("Walmex"), and whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled by the Company. The Audit Committee and the Company have engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who are assisting in the on-going investigation of these matters.
The Company has also been conducting a voluntary global review of its policies, practices and internal controls for anti-corruption compliance. The Company is engaged in strengthening its global anti-corruption compliance program through appropriate remedial anti-corruption measures. In November 2011, the Company voluntarily disclosed that investigative activity to the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ") and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). Since the implementation of the global review and the enhanced anti-corruption compliance program, the Audit Committee and the Company have identified or been made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA. When such allegations have been reported or identified, the Audit Committee and the Company, together with their third party advisors, have conducted inquiries and when warranted based on those inquiries, opened investigations. Inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations were commenced in a number of foreign markets where the Company operates, including, but not limited to, Brazil, China and India.
As previously disclosed, the Company is under investigation by the DOJ and the SEC regarding possible violations of the FCPA. The Company has been cooperating with the agencies and discussions have been ongoing regarding the resolution of these matters. These discussions have progressed to a point that, in fiscal 2018, the Company reasonably estimated a probable loss and has recorded an aggregate accrual of $283 million with respect to these matters (the "Accrual"). As the discussions are continuing, there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of the final resolution of these matters.
A number of federal and local government agencies in Mexico have also initiated investigations of these matters. Walmex is cooperating with the Mexican governmental agencies conducting these investigations. Furthermore, lawsuits relating to the matters under investigation have been filed by several of the Company's shareholders against it, certain of its current directors, and certain of its former directors, certain of its former officers and certain of Walmex's former officers.
The Company could be exposed to a variety of negative consequences as a result of the matters noted above. There could be one or more enforcement actions in respect of the matters that are the subject of some or all of the on-going government investigations, and such actions, if brought, may result in judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions, cease and desist orders, debarment or other relief, criminal convictions and/or penalties and the shareholder lawsuits referenced above may result in judgments against the Company and its current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. The Company expects that there will be on-going media and governmental interest, including additional news articles from media publications on these matters, which could impact the perception among certain audiences of the Company's role as a corporate citizen.
In addition, the Company has incurred and expects to continue to incur costs in responding to requests for information or subpoenas seeking documents, testimony and other information in connection with the government investigations, in defending the shareholder lawsuits, and in conducting the review and investigations. These costs will be expensed as incurred. For the three months ended April 30, 2018 and 2017, the Company incurred the following third-party expenses in connection with the FCPA investigation and related matters:
Three Months Ended April 30,
(Amounts in millions)
Ongoing inquiries and investigations
Global compliance program and organizational enhancements
The Company does not presently believe that these matters, including the Accrual (and the payment of the Accrual at some point-in-time in the future), will have a material adverse effect on its business, although given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, the Company can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to its business in the future.