David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab of the New York Times were awarded the Pulitzer Prize Monday for their investigation of Wal-Mart’s alleged bribery in Mexico and the cover up that followed.
The Pulitzer winners were announced Monday.
Barstow and Xanic von Bertrab published their stunning report about Wal-Mart in April last year.
Wal-Mart’s Mexican subsidiary allegedly paid about $24 million in bribes, they said, for licenses to expand throughout the country.
The bribes were discovered internally as early as 2005, they said, but were covered up.
Their report said:
Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”
The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.
Instead, an examination by the New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.
The Pulitzer Prize is America’s most prestigious journalism award.
It was established in 1917 by the will of publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City.
The New York Times‘ account of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism said:
The Pulitzer judges singled out Mr. Barstow, 50, and Ms. von Bertrab, 45, for an investigative project that, after a year and a half of reporting, exposed how Wal-Mart used widespread bribery to obtain permits and gain a competitive advantage in Mexico. The reporters also showed how officials for the retailer, the world’s largest, sought to cover up corrupt tactics. The reporting led to an investigation by the Justice Department into whether Walmart had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “It started with a tip that led to documents, which led to more documents,” Mr. Barstow said.
Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, said last month investigations by the DOJ and SEC into possible bribery in Mexico, China, Brazil, and other countries are ongoing
It is also facing foreign government bribery investigations and civil suits filed by shareholders.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, said it spent $157 million during the past fiscal year on FCPA investigations, including defense costs in related shareholder suits.