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Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s former vice chairman, Thomas Coughlin, asked an Arkansas state court Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit the world’s largest retailer filed against him last month seeking to void his multimillion-dollar retirement package. Coughlin resigned from the company’s board of directors in March amid allegations he misspent company funds for the previous seven years. In the filing, Coughlin’s attorneys claim he and the company had signed a release upon his retirement barring the company from pursuing him for “any and all liability for claims, causes of actions, demands, damages, attorney fees, expenses, compensation or other costs or losses of any nature.” Because of that agreement, Coughlin claims, Wal-Mart cannot sue to end his retirement benefits. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said Tuesday the company had not thoroughly examined Coughlin’s request, but “we remain confident in the merits of our case.” In the Tuesday filing, Coughlin said Wal-Mart is ignoring the release and that there were claims unknown to the company at the time of his retirement for which Wal-Mart now wants relief. Coughlin also says that Wal-Mart claims it was “fraudulently induced to sign the release” but has no facts to back that assertion. Wal-Mart disclosed previously in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was terminating Coughlin retroactively for “gross misconduct.” The company’s lawsuit was filed in Bentonville, Ark., where it is based, and seeks to formally sever the pact. Coughlin has said his use of corporate money and property was “reimbursement” for “union activity.” In the lawsuit, Wal-Mart said that company policy allows it to seek forfeiture of retirement plan benefits for employees who engage in gross misconduct. Wal-Mart wants Coughlin to forfeit all outstanding stock awards and all incentive payments under his retirement pact. It also said in an SEC filing that interest credited to Coughlin’s own contributions to a deferred-compensation retirement plan will be reduced by 50 percent. His supplemental executive retirement account will be recalculated as if no employer contributions were credited on or after Jan. 31, 1996, the June filing said. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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