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Wal-Mart Names Roberts Top Counsel Amid Mexico Bribery Probe

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. named Karen Roberts general counsel as her predecessor, Jeff Gearhart, focuses on global compliance efforts while the company grapples with allegations of bribery in Mexico.

Roberts, 42, a 17-year veteran of the company who now handles Wal-Mart’s real estate operations, will start the new role on Feb. 1, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said today in a statement. Gearhart, 48, will continue to oversee the legal department in his role as executive vice president and corporate secretary and work with Wal-Mart’s compliance, ethics and investigations teams.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating allegations that Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials so it could more quickly open stores in the country. Wal-Mart said in November it also has started inquiries into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Brazil, India and China.

In October, the company combined its compliance office with ethics, investigations and legal functions to form one organization.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, rose 0.6 percent to $68.96 at 2:50 p.m. in New York. The shares had advanced 15 percent this year through yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Dudley in New York at rdudley6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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