(Almost) always low prices at Wal-Mart Stores …

April 26, 2010

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) brags about offering the biggest bargains on the block, but that may not apply when it comes to its own officers and directors.

Consider Executive Vice President Brian C. Cornell, who heads up Sam’s Club. The newest of the company’s top officers, he joined the company last April, and collected $668,498 in salary, a $1.3 million incentive bonus, and $10.6 million in stock, Wal-Mart’s recent proxy says. On top of that, the company also paid him $1.7 million in moving costs for relocating to Bentonville, Arkansas, where Wal-Mart is based.

We don’t know precisely where Cornell moved from, or to, but that’s one of the biggest relocation packages we’ve seen here at footnoted this season. Wal-Mart tells us it includes “payments made to him to offset a loss incurred in the sale of a residence owned by him,” but not another $28,219 to cover the cost of his lawyers while negotiating his employment package. We certainly hope most of that cost was the loss on sale of Cornell’s prior home — otherwise, Wal-Mart might want to look into a more cost-effective moving contractor. Cornell previously worked for Michael’s, the big arts-and-crafts chain based in Irving, Texas that was taken private several years ago. As far as we can tell from Google Maps, that’s about 360 miles from Wal-Mart world headquarters — and $4,772 a mile.

Meantime, Wal-Mart reimbursed Roger C. Corbett, a Wal-Mart director and and Australian bank and newspaper-company director who used to run Woolworths Ltd., taxes of $56,604 “attributable to spousal travel expenses, meals, and related activities in connection with certain Board meetings,” and for the costs themselves.

That’s more than a Wal-Mart assistant-manager makes in a year, according to Glassdoor.com, and just a hair under the $61,309 that PayScale says the company pays store managers. WakeUpWalMart.com, a site run by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, pegs average annual income for Wal-Mart “associates” at $19,165. (We couldn’t find clear pay figures on Wal-Mart’s Web site or in its SEC filings.)

Corbett also got $16,000 in extra pay from the company, on top of $76,000 in director’s fees and $160,000 in stock, because he’s based in Australia, and had to endure the rigors of “intercontinental travel from his residence” to attend the company’s four in-person board meetings last year. (Wal-Mart’s board also held one meeting by conference-call.)

All told, we’re beginning to understand why Wal-Mart changed its slogan a couple years back from the time-tested “Always Low Prices” to the more equivocal “Save More. Live Better.” We just hope it doesn’t apply only to company officials.

Image source: Kenneth Hynek via Flickr.

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