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The case against former Wal-Mart vice chairman Tom Coughlin – who has been convicted of fraud and whose retirement/severance package is being challenged by the retailer, which would like to void it – will go a jury trial, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled.

A state judge dismissed the suit brought by Wal-Mart, but the Supreme Court has now unanimously overturned that ruling.

While Wal-Mart and Coughlin had signed an agreement not to sue each other for any reason after his departure from the company, Wal-Mart is arguing that his fraudulent activities only came to light after the pact was signed…and that Coughlin’s signature was it itself fraudulent under the circumstances.

"Wal-Mart has sufficiently stated a claim that it would not have entered the retirement agreement and release had it known of Coughlin's misconduct," the justices ruled unanimously.

Coughlin’s retirement/severance package is said to be between $12 million and $15 million.

At the same time, federal prosecutors are arguing in federal appeals court that Coughlin’s sentence – 26 months of house arrest – was insufficient and that he should serve a jail term. Coughlin’s attorneys argue that the former executive is ill and would not survive a jail sentence.
KC's View:
We take no pleasure in suggesting that an old, sick man should go to jail. But we also would argue that if Coughlin did not have his resources and stature in the community, he would have been in jail a long time ago…

We still maintain that some sort of public service ought to be part of the sentence – that Coughlin ought to be relocated to some sort of urban environment where he can teach disadvantaged kids about entrepreneurial values…and even provide an example of why they should stay on the right side of the law. Let him help some poor kids start a business.

That way, the punishment would fit the crime. And maybe some greater good would come out of these sorry events.