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Massachusetts pension fund votes against Wal-Mart directors

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By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON, May 29 (Reuters) - Massachusetts' state pension fund said Tuesday it voted against the re-election of seven Wal-Mart Stores Inc directors, the latest public pension fund to protest allegations of a widespread bribery scheme in Mexico and subsequent cover-up.

"We need to make it clear that these kinds of corporate abuses are not acceptable, and that serious repercussions happen when problems are not appropriately addressed," said Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman, who chairs the pension fund. "Shareholders own public companies, not the other way around."

The $50 billion state pension fund owns 923,626 shares worth $60 million, of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart.

It voted against directors M. Michele Burns, Michael Duke, Gregory Penner, H. Lee Scott, Jr., Jim Walton, Robson Walton, and Christopher Williams.

Massachusetts said it found some directors were "too closely associated with an alleged bribery scandal in Mexico that recently came to light."

In recent days, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), the New York City Pension Fund and the Connecticut state pension fund all said they planned to vote against certain directors in the wake of the scandal.

The company is expected to hold its annual meeting in Arkansas on June 1.

The meeting, designed to help celebrate the retailer's 50th anniversary, has now come under a cloud in the wake of allegations, first reported by the New York Times, that Wal-Mart de Mexico , Wal-Mart's Mexico unit, allegedly orchestrated bribes of $24 million to help the unit grow quickly and that top Wal-Mart executives tried to cover it up.

(Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

((svea.herbst@thomsonreuters.com)(+617 856 4331))

Keywords: WALMART/MASSACHSUSETTS