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Lawmakers release documents on Wal-Mart bribery

By Anne D'Innocenzio

AP Retail Writer

POSTED:



NEW YORK » Lawmakers are making public emails that show that Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s CEO found out in 2005 that the retailer was handing out bribes in Mexico.

Democratic Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and Henry A. Waxman, who are investigating bribery charges at Wal-Mart's Mexico division, today released emails that indicate that Mike Duke and other senior Wal-Mart officials were informed multiple times starting in 2005 about bribes being made in the country. U.S. law forbids American companies from bribing foreign officials.

The emails, which the lawmakers obtained from a confidential source, contradict claims by Wal-Mart senior executives that they had no knowledge of bribes being made by the company in Mexico.

The lawmakers shared the documents with Wal-Mart on Wednesday, and sent a letter to Duke asking for a meeting to discuss them.

"It would be a serious matter if the CEO of one of our nation's largest companies failed to address allegations of a bribery scheme," according to the letter written by Waxman and Cummings to Duke.

Allegations first surfaced in April that Wal-Mart failed to notify law enforcement that company officials authorized millions of dollars in bribes in Mexico to speed up getting building permits and gain other favors. Wal-Mart has been working with government officials in the U.S. and Mexico on that investigation.

Wal-Mart has conducted an internal investigation into the matter. And last November, the retailer said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was looking into potential U.S. bribery law violations in Brazil, China and India.

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart's spokeswoman, issued a statement today saying that there was no new information in the letter and that it has been providing information to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the documents that were released by lawmakers today. The world's largest retailer also said that it is exploring other ways to make additional information available

"We are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption program everywhere we operate and taking appropriate action for any instance of non-compliance," Brooke said.

The bribery allegations were first reported by the New York Times. Last month, the paper published another story focusing on how Wal-Mart's Mexico division offered large payoffs to get things that the law prohibited.

The documents released today by lawmakers include an email from November 2005 from Maritza Munich, then General Counsel of Wal-Mart International to Duke and other senior Wal-Mart executives. The email informed them of charges related to bribes paid to obtain permits for a store in Mexico.

The email contained a forwarded summary of an interview with Sergio Cicero Zapata, the former in-house counsel for Wal-Mart de Mexico who oversaw obtaining building through permits throughout Mexico.

The lawmakers also made public another email that Wal-Mart General Counsel Thomas Mars sent on Oct. 15, 2005 to Duke and Tom Hyde, the executive vice president of Wal-Mart. That email referenced to bribes paid to obtain permits for the Teotihuacan site.

"You'll want to read this. I'm available to discuss next steps," Mars wrote in the email.







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Slow wrote:
You can shop at Walmart, you can buy your cars from Pflueger...your choice. I ask you to not knowingly support the amoral and the immoral businesses.
on January 10,2013 | 08:42AM
cojef wrote:
Business as usual, especially with our ally, Mexico. "Modida", a term familiar on the American/Mexican border, to expedite business operation between the 2 countries. Nothing moves across the border unless a pay-off is made, unless you have time on your hand and can wait out the red tape. Long before off-shore manufacturing became popular, in the middle 60's, know of a situation where re-cycled manufacturing equipment sat on the American border for over 6 months before the equipment was allowed entry into Mexico. Mexican customs brokers negotiated for months before entry was accomplished. The term "modida" was verbally mentioned before any progress was noted in the negotiations.
on January 10,2013 | 10:52AM
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