Ex-exec hits back at Wal-Mart

In filing, fired marketing executive slams alleged ethical lapses, preferential transactions with vendors.

By Chris Zappone, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Julie Roehm, the former Wal-Mart marketing executive fired for traveling with a co-worker at the company's expense, hit back Friday at her ex-employer - and especially its CEO - with a slew of accusations contained in a federal court document.

Roehm accused executives at the No. 1 retailer of ignoring company ethics policy, accepting trips and gifts from clients, and of benefiting from preferential prices on jewelry and yachts.

The filing was made at the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Many of the allegations center on CEO Lee Scott's relationship with Irwin Jacob of Jacobs Trading Co. Roehm said that Scott initiated a relationship that allows Jacobs Trading Company the exclusive right to buy unused merchandise from Wal-Mart (up $0.26 to $46.91, Charts, Fortune 500).

Roehm claims Scott initiated an association with Jacobs, who also owns boat-building companies, and then bought a number of yachts from Jacobs at "preferential prices." Scott was vice president of merchandising at the time, the filing claims.

Scott's relationship with Jacobs allowed Scott to buy a "large pink diamond for his wife at a preferential price," according to the filing.

Roehm also contends Scott and his wife flew to their homes in Longboat Key, Fla., and Las Vegas on private jets owned by the entrepreneur Jacobs.

Wal-Mart responded to Roehm's allegations swiftly.

"This lawsuit is about Julie Roehm and her misconduct," said spokesman John Simley. "Her document shows how weak her case is."

"We will address these issues in court. The allegations of impropriety involving our CEO Lee Scott are untrue," Simley said.

In addition to Scott, Roehm fingers John Fleming, executive vice president of marketing, Steve Bratspies, vice president of marketing and three other executives for a June 2006 trip to Barcelona to meet with vendors, including Tyson Foods and Hanes.

The vendors gave the executives $300 tickets to an Eagles concert, complete with backstage passes and souvenirs, Roehm said in the filing. "None of the officers ever returned any gift or gratuity received...with an explanation [of the company's policy on gifts]," she said.

In a pointed allegation Roehm - whose relationship with former executive Sean Womack was thrust under scrutiny when the two were fired by Wal-Mart - states that Robert Rhoads, who served as general counsel for Wal-Mart, had an affair with a subordinate employee in the company's legal department, even going so far as to pay for the employee's apartment and college tuition.

Rhoads, Roehm said, divorced his wife and subsequently married the employee.

"Mr. Rhoads was not subject to 'immediate termination,' even though it was known that he and [the employee] had married and that he had been her supervisor at Wal-Mart," the filing stated.

Roehm was fired by the retail giant last Dec. 4 after less than a year as head of marketing communications at the world's largest retailer. She sued the company, claiming breach of contract and fraud.

Wal-Mart countersued Roehm, claiming she and a marketing colleague had a romantic relationship, traveling on the company's time, and used a review of advertising agencies to seek jobs at one of those agencies.

The retailer also charged the executives with misuse of the agency review process, accepting gifts from advertising agency DraftFCB, which was later chosen to handle Wal-Mart's ad account, and of discussing job opportunities with that agency.

Wal-Mart said in the suit that Roehm violated company policy that prohibits inappropriate relationships between supervisors and associates - and forbids accepting gifts from suppliers. Top of page