Members of Congress have already tired of Walmart’s (NYSE: WMT) tardy reactions to its requests for information about a bribery probe in Mexico started a month ago by the world’s largest retailer. It has been alleged that officials in the Walmart Mexico division bribed local officials to be granted rapid approval for new stores. There are concerns that management at Walmart as high as CEO Michael Duke were aware of the actions. Nonetheless, Walmart Chairman Robson Walton said at the company’s annual meeting that integrity is among the firm’s most important values. It is not certain whether it is prized ahead or behind making money.
Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman sent a letter to Duke today, in which they wrote, among other things that “you have provided us with no documents, you have declined to allow any Wal-Mart employees to brief our staffs about the allegations, and you have failed to respond to our request to speak with Maritza Munich, a key figure in the investigation.”
One revelation from the letter is that Walmart’s internal investigation has spread:
During the May 21 briefing, Wal-Mart’s outside counsels stated that they were retained to conduct a broad review of your anti-corruption policies and operations in Mexico, Brazil, and China. They informed our staffs that as a result of this review, they are recommending that WalMart also evaluate its operations in India and South Africa. Wal-Mart’s attorneys identified these five countries — which they referred to as “first tier” countries — because they represented regions “where risk was the greatest.”
It is hard to think what Wal-Mart might gain by its sloth.
Douglas A. McIntyre