A new report says the U.S. Justice Department is taking allegations of Walmart bribery in Mexico very seriously, and have started a criminal investigation. And just as that news hits comes a story that the company has created a Global Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Officer. Coincidence? We think not.
Bloomber cites a person familiar with the probe, while also running a story about the FCPA compliance officer who will oversee five international compliance officers. The Justice Department is looking into whether or not Walmart violated the law, after an April 21 New York Times article laid out a story of not only widespread bribery by Walmart de Mexico to obtain permits, but a cover-up at the executive level.
Walmart is also conducting its own review of the allegations. If those investigations find that senior managers were lacking in their actions regarding any kind of bribery or covering up of bribes, Walmart might see a few heads roll and face penalties from the government.
“The penalties paid by companies in settling these types of FCPA investigations have grown significantly larger in recent years,” said Jeffrey Lehtman, a Washington-based partner with the law firm of Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP. “Depending on the facts uncovered, companies like Wal-Mart can expect the penalties to be incredibly high.”
Walmart may have been trying to save its skin when it announced in December 2011 that they were looking into whether they were in compliance with the FCPA. The New York Times says that action came as Walmart got wind of the newspaper’s investigation into bribery allegations. As for whether or not that will help it look pretty in the federal investigation is anyone’s guess.