Yesterday, the Times uncovered a high-level multimillion-dollar bribery scandal in Wal-Mart de Mexico, which prompted the world’s largest retailer to switch to all-out damage control mode. In a statement released to the Times and the press, as well as a video posted to YouTube, the company’s VP of corporate communications, David Tovar, argued that Wal-Mart is already several months into an internal investigation of how $24 million in bribes reported to management were swept under the rug. Front and center is whether the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
This investigations is ongoing and we don’t have a full explanation of what happened. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the specific allegations until we have finished the investigation. We are working hard to understand what occurred in Bentonville more than six years ago.
Tovar adds that Walmart “voluntarily” approached the Department of Justice to self-disclose the investigation, and last December filed a special form with the Securities and Exchange Commission to inform its shareholders as well. But as we learned yesterday, the company only made these gestures “after learning of The Times’s reporting in Mexico.”
For now, the official company line is that, yes, there have been issues with how Wal-Mart de Mexico obtained permits, that these were “discrete” cases, and that “in a large global enterprise such as Walmart, sometimes issues arise despite our best efforts and intentions.”