On May 14, 1999 a jury in San Antonio, TX found that Wal-Mart knowingly participated in an effort to interfere in a business deal that breached a contract between Mexico’s second largest wholesale grocery distributor. The jury awarded the Valores Corporation of Mexico $624 million — which is what the company’s contract with the McLane’s distribution company would have been worth over the 25 year length of the agreement. Valores claimed that Wal-Mart had asked McLane to back out of the deal after receiving pressure from Cifra, a laarger Mexican grocery company, that already had a deal with Wal-Mart to open up Sam’s Clubs in Mexico. The jury trial lasted five weeks, and included testimony from Sam Walton’s son, Rob Walton, who testified that the McLane’s deal with Valores “had not been finalized”, even though McLane had put out a press release announcing the joint venture. A couple of days after the jury award, Wal-Mart announced that it had reached a settlement with Valors for about $130 million. The jury found that McLane was bound by their agreement with Valores, and had breached its fiduciary duty to Valores.
The multi-million settlement in this case is staggering, but such lawsuits against Wal-Mart for “tortious interference” in business deals are not that unusual. For more information about these interference law suits, contact [email protected] The jury said that Wal-Mart knowingly killed the McLane’s deal with Valores, and did so intentionally and willfully. Just another example of the “good corporate citizen” in action!