Can Wal-Mart Explain These Bribery Allegations?

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) executives, including chief executive officer Mike Duke, have stated publicly that they know nothing of the bribery allegations that have been made against the company’s Mexican affiliate, Wal Mart de Mexico. But documents released by Congressional Democrats show otherwise.

These allegations first came to light in two reports compiled by The New York Times last year that detailed the extent of the financial incentives. One of the largest was a $52,000 bribe paid to change a zoning map so that the company could open a store near ancient pyramids in Teotihuacan. Evidence has now been uncovered that contradicts statements made by the company after the story was published.

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Elijah Cummings of the U.S. House Oversight Committee and Henry Waxman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee claimed on Thursday that executives were aware that Walmex officials had used bribes to launch stores throughout Mexico that could not have been opened otherwise. A letter written by the two Congressmen said that they had acquired company emails that supported the accusations, but so far Wal-Mart has denied any knowledge of the bribes, saying that the contents of the emails had been misinterpreted.

In one email seen by Reuters and dated October 2005, Wal-Mart General Counsel Thomas Mars wrote a summary of the bribery allegations that ended with this note: “You’ll want to read this. I’m available to discuss next steps.” Another Wal-Mart counsel, Maritza Munich, outlined the list of alleged bribes a former Mexican employee said the company had made in a November 2005 email, reported The Wall Street Journal.

“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,” stated Cummings and Waxman in their letter, according to the Journal.

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