At the end of January, as Steve Fishman was finishing his New York feature on ousted Wal-Mart marketing exec Julie Roehm and the scandal that led to her downfall, the discount retailer's execs finally broke their silence. In a last-minute statement to Fishman, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman claimed the company had proof Roehm had engaged in an affair with Sean Womack, a subordinate. "Wal-Mart now has irrefutable and admissible evidence of the relationship," the spokeswoman told Fishman. "I would not tell you this if we didn't know it was true." And yesterday that charge — first made to New York — entered the legal record, when Wal-Mart filed a brief in its battle with Roehm (she charges wrongful termination; the company charges a violation of corporate policy) repeating the claims.
"Instead of working solely in Wal-Mart's interest," the Times reported the company wrote in its brief, Roehm "frequently put her own first. She did not merely fail to avoid conflicts of interest, she invited them." The brief also quoted from e-mails:
"I hate not being able to call you or write you," Ms. Roehm wrote early last fall, according to an e-mail message Mr. Womack's wife provided to Wal-Mart. "I think about us together all the time. Little moments like watching your face when you kiss me."
Roehm's reply to the Times? "I know what e-mails they have, and that's not at all what they prove." Or, as she told Fishman in January: "I guarantee there is nothing because it didn't happen. I know what they have, and it's not evidence of an affair."