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Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Elijah Cummings are pressuring Walmart over emails showing that now-CEO Mike Duke learned in 2005 about allegations that Walmart executives were using illegal bribery to help drive the company's expansion in Mexico, and specifically about bribery used to locate a store near the pyramids at Teotihuacan. In a letter to Duke, Waxman and Cummings write:
Documents we have obtained show that check requests were made for the Teotihuacan project for “payment to a gestoria for obtaining the Road/Highway Ruling” and “payment for certification of excavation actions carried out by the INAH.”

These documents appear to be genuine.  On January 9, 2013, we shared them with your counsel and asked him to advise us by January 10, 2013, if Wal-Mart disputes their authenticity.  Your counsel did not raise any question about their authenticity.

These documents and e-mails call into question your company’s statement that “[n]one of the associates we have interviewed, including people responsible for real estate projects in Mexico during this time period, recall any mention of bribery allegations related to this store.”  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.

Walmart is arguing that there's nothing to see here, because everything Cummings and Waxman have released was public knowledge anyway, and also:
[T]he lawmakers misinterpreted its prior remarks that executives didn't know about bribery allegations, which the company said referred to an earlier time period before the store opened in 2004.

The company said it is still investigating whether Wal-Mart executives knew of bribery allegations in 2005 and failed to report them to authorities.

Yes, Walmart's argument appears to be that it has issued enough statements responding to bribery scandals that two longtime House members and their staffs got confused about which statement addressed which allegations. Also, too, Walmart is investigating whether its executives knew about the bribery allegations that Cummings and Waxman released emails showing they did indeed know about. And while Walmart's investigation is totally sincere and in no way intended to produce any kind of whitewashed results, the company has not allowed Cummings and Waxman access to the person who wrote the email alerting Duke to bribery allegations.

In other words, Walmart is as committed to misdirection and obfuscation of what its executives knew when about the bribery being committed by its executives as it is committed to misdirection and obfuscation about its responsibility for working conditions in the factories that produce its goods and the warehouses that move them.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:32 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Walmart's practicing a time-honored strategy (7+ / 0-)

    "If you can't dazzle them with logic baffle them with bullshit."

    IBM did something similar in its anti-trust case with the government decades ago. They provided warehouses of documents and forced the government to find the needle in the haystack.

    What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

    by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:36:36 AM PST

  •  What's wrong with us that this is okay? (6+ / 0-)
  •  Walmart expertly evades the issue: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson

    Dec 17th statement.

    More from the Nation:
    http://www.thenation.com/...

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Dec: Life so cheap; property so sacred.

    by JayRaye on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 12:04:05 PM PST

  •  What is the status of the SEC and Justice (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, cotterperson, mungley

    Department's investigations into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

    It's fine for Congress to investigate, but Walmart personnel need to be prosecuted, fined, and jailed. Personally, I wanna see some perp walks.

  •  Thanks for highlighting this, Laura. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mungley

    Here's a link to the story cited in the press release at the NYT, The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico. It is a rather long account of the cultural area destroyed by the disgusting store. It is worth reading because Wal-Mart's actions, and their consequences, are so bad! But a snip:

    In ancient times, Teotihuacán was a sprawling metropolis of perhaps 150,000 people. The “city of the gods,” as the Aztecs called it, rose up around a vast temple complex and two great pyramids, the Sun and the Moon. The ancient city is long gone, buried under farm fields, small pueblos and the detritus of bygone civilizations. But the temple complex and pyramids remain, which is why Teotihuacán is so central to Mexico’s cultural patrimony. ....

    [During bulldozing] researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found the remains of a wall dating to approximately 1300 and enough clay pottery to fill several sacks. Then they found an altar, a plaza and nine graves. Once again, construction was temporarily halted so their findings could be cataloged, photographed and analyzed ...

    But then the bulldozing began again because INAH had been bought off, just as state and local officials had, as detailed in the story. Loss of community, shrinking of the traditional marketplace, and "gringoization" were among the other consequences.

    Foreign. Corrupt. Practices. Act.

    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 12:55:43 PM PST

  •  I think of them as "Walmuerte." (0+ / 0-)

    The Onion says----scholars have discovered---the Mayan word for "Apocalypse" in fact---translates more accurately as: "Time of pale obese gun monsters."

    by lyvwyr101 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 06:22:45 PM PST

  •  Bribery (5+ / 0-)

    Why is anyone surprised by this revelation?
    Walmart didn't get tp be the biggest company in the world by playing fair.
    they got there by spreading their money where it counted. And it didn't count where their workers were involved.
    Anyone who thinks that Walmart is a responsible corporate person is naive in the extreme.
    Walmart is a corporate abomination.

    •  I do business in Mexico (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heart of the Rockies

      with federal and state governments.  When I heard this story it seemed so facile: anyone with a half of a brain knows that wherever the government is involved with business in Mexico somebody is getting bribed. Now american companies have to be at "arms length" to cover their ass with regard to FCPA, and it remains to be seen whether or not walmart has done this. But the bottom line is of course walmart was involved with bribing in Mexico. If being "responsible" means that you or one of your agents or partners won't bribe then forget about doing business in Mexico and many many other countries around the world. This is simply a dose of reality.

    •  The "Death Star" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rhauenstein

      for communities where people used to gather on the square ... and in this context, the plaza.

      Its traffic kills communities!

      "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

      by cotterperson on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:11:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And just today ... what a surprise! (0+ / 0-)
    In the midst of a major bribery probe that originated in its Mexican operations, Wal-Mart has named a new chief for its Latin America division.

    Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. today announced that Enrique Ostale, president and CEO of Walmart Chile, has been named executive vice president, president and CEO of Walmart Latin America, where he will oversee Walmart’s operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

    The company has more than 373,000 employees and 3,832 retail units in those countries.

    http://talkbusiness.net/...

    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:08:21 PM PST

  •  Reality Hurts (0+ / 0-)

    Having worked in the maquiladora area in Mexico for many years bribery or "miscallenous costs" (part of an expense report) is as routine as going to the bathroom.

    We put a 300,000 square foot facility plant in Matamoros which is across the border from Brownsville.  When  it came time to turn the water on  it costs us 40K to get the right officials to make accomodations to turn the water on.  

    We put numerous facilities in Reynosa, Mexico which is across the border from McAllen, TX it costs money to get the power on, water, building permits, etc., etc.  This is the way the Mexican government does business pure and simple, we can argue about it but it is reality.  

    I crossed the border every day into Mexico to work.  Every Friday the Transito Police would pull me over and I would give him 20 dollars.  This also happened to my colleagues.  It was simply part of doing business in Mexico.  

    Laura, you are very naive on what it takes to do business in foreign countries.  Singling out Walmart may make for good press but they are hardly alone.  Trust me that the Walmart CEO did not know anything about the extra "costs" involved in opening a business in Mexico.  CEO's are not that stupid.  

  •  Wow, bribery in Mexico? Who knew it was possible? (0+ / 0-)

    Imagine, paying off officials in Mexico to get what you want.  Who even knew such a thing was possible until the uber-monster WalMart invented this evil practice.  Good job uncovering it.

    Really?  WHAT THE FUCK?  You have to be kidding me.  Mexico runs on fucking graft and bribes.  Jesus Christ on a Triscuit.  

    No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. US Constitution, Article 6

    by ppgooding on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:36:04 PM PST

  •  Appears to be a scheme to protect Chairman Walton. (0+ / 0-)

    Look, when these things pop up in your organization, the first thing you, as CEO, are obliged to do is fill in the Chairman and the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, and file an SEC exception report.  Next, and with their assent if not their direction, you clean house.  Like, over a weekend.  It doesn't take long to find things out in such cases.  So what likely happened is CEO Mike Duke informed Chairman Rob Walton and they decided not to clean house for fear those thus cleaned would blab.  They probably  wanted to keep it quiet, for fear the market would conclude that Walmart's famed growth rate is a mirage and is therefore not repeatable.  Beliefs about Walmart's future growth rate probably account for anywhere from 40% to 80% of the stock's value and the Walton family's $100 billion + net worth.  Oh yeah, then there is the accounting fraud and SEC violations.  We could be looking at jail time here for Mike Duke and Rob Walton.  Well, theoretically, anyway..  Definitely soemthing fishy here, folks, because they are not following the CEO rule book.

    GOP Wars against: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Immigrants, Mexicans, Blacks, Gays, Women, Unions, Workers, Unemployed, Voters, Elderly, Kids, Poor, Sick, Disabled, Dying, Lovers, Kindness, Rationalism, Science, Sanity, Reality.

    by SGWM on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:22:42 PM PST

  •  This is serious shit (0+ / 0-)

    Believe it or not you can actually go to jail for bribing a foreign official ... of course it's okay to bribe an american official ... that's called lobbying (go figure!).

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 04:20:43 AM PST

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