By all accounts, its appetite for growth in Mexico was insatiable. The drive to dominate the retail market there, according to the New York Times, allegedly led Walmart to pay $24 million in bribes to fast track store permits.
No one has accused Walmart of other violations. But we’ve noticed a link between overseas bribery and monopolistic practices, usually through cartels and bid rigging.
Late last month, for example, thirteen freight forwarding and logistics firms were fined a total €169 million ($221 million) by the European Commission for cartel activities.
One of the companies, Panalpina, paid $81.8 million in 2011 to settle FCPA offenses in Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
Bridgestone Corporation paid a $28 million criminal fine last year for its role in conspiracies to rig bids and bribe foreign officials. A former Bridgestone manager, Misao Hioki, was sentenced in 2008 to two years in jail for violating the FCPA and conspiring to rig bids.
Siemens was fined €396 million in 2007 by the EC for a cartel that fixed prices of gas-insulated switchgear for over fifteen years. In 2008, Siemens paid $800 million to settle FCPA charges.
In the price fixing cartel with Siemens was Alstom. The French engineering and construction firm is now under investigation for overseas bribery by the U.K. and the United States.
Blowing the whistle on Siemens and Alstom was ABB. It was rewarded by the EC and escaped without any fine for being part of the cartel. But in 2010, ABB — based in Switzerland — settled FCPA criminal and civil charges for $58.3 million.
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The idea that FCPA violations and monopolistic behavior are linked isn’t new.
A former official in the DOJ’s antitrust division said in 1999 that there’s a recurring intersection of conduct that violates both the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
‘A payment to a foreign official in violation of the FCPA,’ he said, ‘may also be an act by an international bid-rigging, price-fixing, or market-allocation cartel in furtherance of its scheme injuring American businesses and consumers in violation of the Sherman Act.’