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 30,000 equal value ("Equal Value") claims that began 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.
In March 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. In July 2015, the Employment Tribunal denied Asda's requests. Following additional proceedings, in June 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. In October 2018, claimants appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeals and in January 2019, the Court of Appeals declined to strike out any claims relying on the Employment Tribunal’s finding that claimants had not deliberately disregarded the Tribunal’s procedural rule.
As to the initial phase of the Equal Value claims, in October 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. In August 2017, the Employment Appeal Tribunal affirmed the Employment Tribunal's ruling and also granted permission for Asda to appeal substantially all of its findings. Asda sought permission to appeal the remainder of the Employment Appeal Tribunal's findings to the Court of Appeals and a hearing before the Court of Appeals on the comparability findings was held in October 2018. The Court of Appeals upheld the Employment Tribunal’s findings. Asda sought permission to appeal the Court of Appeals decision to the Supreme Court on February 27, 2019 and is awaiting a decision on its application.
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 consolidated numerous lawsuits filed against a wide array of defendants by various plaintiffs, including counties, cities, healthcare providers, Native American tribes, individuals, 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 also been filed in state courts by state, local and tribal governments, health care providers and other plaintiffs. Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief including abatement. The Company cannot predict the number of such claims that may be filed, but 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 and distribution practices involving opioids. The Company cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from these matters. Accordingly, the Company can provide no assurance as to the scope and outcome of these matters and no assurance as to whether its business, financial position, results of operations or cash flows 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 engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who assisted in the investigation of these matters.
The Company also conducted a voluntary global review of its policies, practices and internal controls for anti-corruption compliance and, as part of that review, strengthened and enhanced 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 identified or were made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA. When such allegations were reported or identified, the Audit Committee and the Company, together with their third-party advisors, conducted inquiries and investigations. Inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations were conducted in a number of foreign markets where the Company operates or has operated, 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 progressed to a point that, in fiscal 2018, the Company reasonably estimated a probable loss and recorded an aggregate accrual of $283 million with respect to these matters (the "Accrual"). While the Company believes the final resolution of these matters is nearing a conclusion, 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 also investigated these matters. Walmex cooperated with the Mexican governmental agencies that conducted these investigations.
Furthermore, lawsuits relating to the matters under investigation were filed by several of the Company's shareholders against Walmart, certain current and former directors and former officers and certain of Walmex's former officers. These matters have been resolved.
Existing lawsuits relating to the allegations have been resolved, but 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 or lawsuits 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. The Company expects that there will be on-going media and governmental interest, including additional news articles 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 and in conducting the investigations. These costs will be expensed as incurred. For the three months ended April 30, 2019 and 2018, 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 payment of the Accrual at some point-in-time in the future, will have a material adverse effect on its business, financial position, results of operations or cash flows, although given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, the Company can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to its business, financial position, results of operations or cash flows in the future.