Aarti Shah 16 Sep 2014 // 11:27PM GMT
BENTONVILLE, AR — Walmart’s VP of corporate communications David Tovar is stepping down after the company discovered he didn’t complete his undergraduate degree 18 years ago.
The discovery was made several weeks ago when Walmart’s EVP of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett approached Tovar about promoting him to the newly-created role of SVP overseeing all internal and external communications. The promotion — which would have moved Tovar from managing 45 people to 100 — involved a more rigorous background check.
“I was really excited about the position and thought I had worked really hard to put myself in that position,” Tovar told the Holmes Report. Tovar has spent eight years at Walmart, working his way up from director of media relations. Last fall, he was promoted to VP of corporate communications when Mona Williams retired.
The background check revealed that while Tovar attended the University of Delaware from 1992 to 1996, he was ultimately “a few credit hours” short of earning his degree in art.
“I discovered this a few months after I had walked in graduation — I already had a job and didn’t think a degree in art would be necessary or helpful as I started in the communications field,” Tovar said. “I’ve had an 18-year career in PR and it’s never been an issue.”
Even so, the consensus among management at Walmart was that Tovar couldn’t be promoted and that he should part ways with the company by the end of the month.
“I definitely made a mistake and I was transparent with them about that,” Tovar said. “It’s been an honor and privilege to have worked there for the last eight years and I understand and respect the company’s position. I made a mistake nearly 20 years ago and I’ve since contacted the University of Delaware to work on getting those credits.”
Tovar says Bartlett plans to move forward with consolidating internal and external communications at Walmart under an SVP position and the search for a candidate is currently underway.
“I haven’t made any decisions about my next steps but I’m excited about the future,” Tovar said. “I’m open to finding the right next opportunity — it might be another publicly-traded big company, it might be a smaller organization or a startup. It might even be a consultant role at an agency.”
Among Tovar’s legacy at Walmart will likely be the response to a New York Times OpEd “The Corporate Daddy” that blasted the company for its employment practices. Walmart’s response, led by Tovar, was re-posting the OpEd on Walmart’s blog, marked up in red ink with Walmart’s rebuttal.
“We have a mantra at Walmart — no free shots which means no one can criticize us without giving us the opportunity to respond,” Tovar said about the OpEd. “One thing we said the beginning of the year was we wanted to be more innovative and take more risks. So we thought, why don’t we use our marked up version of the OpEd and post it on our blog and push it out on our social channels. The reach and support for it was overwhelming.”
Tovar plans to step down at the end of September.