Having served as a Chairman, CEO and board member of large multi-national companies, I know something about the challenges involved in managing far-flung operations.
I also know that any allegation of a breakdown in control processes, management responsibilities or corporate values must be thoroughly investigated.
Facing extremely serious charges of large-scale briberyand a multi-year cover-up, the Wal-Mart Board should immediately appoint a completely independent team to determine the facts. This team should include outside investigators, outside counsel and independent Board members. Given the nature of the allegations, this team must separate itself from management at all levels of the company, including in the Board room. This team should have complete latitude and authority to follow the investigation wherever, and to whomever, it leads.
While this investigative team must have broad authority, its own conduct must be beyond reproach. The team cannot convince itself that ‘the ends justify the means”, nor should it use techniques that will tarnish its findings. They should recall the HP pre-texting scandal, where the investigation into leaks from the Board room turned out to be worse than the original crime.