MetLife Says Castro-Wright Quits Board Amid Wal-Mart Probe

Wal-Mart's Eduardo Castro-Wright
Eduardo Castro-Wright, seen here as president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.S. division. Photographer: Beth Hall/Bloomberg

MetLife Inc. said board member Eduardo Castro-Wright has resigned after the New York Times reported that the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unit he ran in Mexico paid bribes to government officials.

“Recent events that will require my immediate and personal attention” led to the departure, Castro-Wright said in a letter released by the New York-based insurer in a regulatory filing today.

Castro-Wright, 57, a member of MetLife’s Governance and Corporate Responsibility Committee, joined the board in March 2008 and wasn’t up for re-election until 2014. He was “the driving force behind years of bribery” in Mexico to speed the opening of stores there before Wal-Mart named him vice chairman in 2008, the Times reported April 21, citing former executives.

“It is my expectation that these outside distractions will be resolved favorably within the next several months,” he said in the letter to MetLife Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steven Kandarian. “In the interim, however, they would not allow me to perform my duties at the highest levels that both the board and I demand. Accordingly, I now must focus my energy in spending personal time with my family and in protecting my good name.”

MetLife’s governance committee “oversees the management and mitigation of risks related to failure to comply with required or appropriate corporate governance standards,” the insurer said last month in a proxy statement. Castro-Wright, who also served on the compensation and investment committees, was paid $259,124 for his work at the insurer last year, including $145,000 in cash and $112,502 in stock awards, the filing shows.

‘Leadership Roles’

MetLife cited Castro-Wright’s experiences outside the country when he was appointed to the board.

“His leadership roles at several well-known brands in the U.S., as well as in the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions, will undoubtedly benefit MetLife as we continue to grow our businesses outside of the U.S.,” Robert Henrikson, the insurer’s CEO at the time, said in a statement announcing Castro-Wright’s selection.

Henrikson expanded MetLife in Latin America and Asia with the 2010 purchase of American Life Insurance Co. for about $16 billion.

Wal-Mart said the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is taking steps to ensure compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and has met with the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission to discuss the case.

Jeff Gearhart, general counsel and corporate secretary, told employees in a memo that the alleged violations “occurred more than six years ago” and aren’t “a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.”

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