In its quarterly SEC filing Thursday, Wal-Mart again said it is investigating both alleged FCPA offenses in foreign subsidiaries and ‘whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled.’
The DOJ and SEC have been investigating Wal-Mart since November 2011.
The company spent $82 million on the FCPA investigation and related compliance matters during the quarter ended July 31 this year, and $155 million for the six months ended July 31.
Wal-Mart hasn’t disclosed details about any alleged cover up in the executive suite. And the feds haven’t commented.
But it was discovery of an alleged cover up that earned two New York Times reporters a Pulitzer Prize this year for their investigative reporting.
David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrabof broke the story in 2011 about Wal-Mart de Mexico’s alleged $24 million in bribes to win approvals for new stores.
While that alone was great reporting, their description of the alleged cover up was what most impressed the Pulitzer judges. (Cover ups, after all, are never meant to be discovered.)
The Pulitzer Prize committee 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.
Here’s the full FCPA disclosure from the Form 10-Q filed by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. with the SEC on September 5:
The Audit Committee (the “Audit Committee”) of the Board of Directors of the Company, which is composed solely of independent directors, is conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with foreign subsidiaries, including WalMart de México, S.A.B. de C.V. (“Walmex”), and whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled by the Company. The Audit Committee and the Company have engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who are assisting in the on-going investigation of these matters.
The Company is also conducting a voluntary global review of its policies, practices and internal controls for FCPA compliance. The Company is engaged in strengthening its global anti-corruption compliance programs through appropriate remedial anti-corruption measures. In November 2011, the Company voluntarily disclosed that investigative activity to the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). Since the implementation of the global review and the enhanced anti-corruption compliance programs, the Audit Committee and the Company have identified or been made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA. When such allegations are reported or identified, the Audit Committee and the Company, together with their third party advisors, conduct inquiries and when warranted based on those inquiries, open investigations. Inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations have been commenced in a number of foreign markets where the Company operates, including, but not limited to, Brazil, China and India.
The Company has been informed by the DOJ and the SEC that it is also the subject of their respective investigations into possible violations of the FCPA. The Company is cooperating with the investigations by the DOJ and the SEC. A number of federal and local government agencies in Mexico have also initiated investigations of these matters. Walmex is cooperating with the Mexican governmental agencies conducting these investigations. Furthermore, lawsuits relating to the matters under investigation have been filed by several of the Company’s shareholders against it, certain of its current directors, certain of its former directors, certain of its current and former officers and certain of Walmex’s current and former officers.
The Company could be exposed to a variety of negative consequences as a result of the matters noted above. There could be one or more enforcement actions in respect of the matters that are the subject of some or all of the on-going government investigations, and such actions, if brought, may result in judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions, cease and desist orders, debarment or other relief, criminal convictions and/or penalties. The shareholder lawsuits may result in judgments against the Company and its current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. The Company cannot predict at this time the outcome or impact of the government investigations, the shareholder lawsuits, or its own internal investigations and review.
In addition, the Company expects to incur costs in responding to requests for information or subpoenas seeking documents, testimony and other information in connection with the government investigations, in defending the shareholder lawsuits, and in conducting the review and investigations. These costs will be expensed as incurred. For the three and six months ended July 31, 2013, the Company incurred expenses of approximately $82 million and $155 million respectively, related to these matters. Of these expenses, approximately $48 million and $92 million, respectively, represent costs incurred for the ongoing inquiries
and investigations and $34 million and $63 million, respectively, relate to global compliance programs and organizational enhancements.
These matters may require the involvement of certain members of the Company’s senior management that could impinge on the time they have available to devote to other matters relating to the business. The
Company expects that there will be on-going media and governmental interest, including additional news articles from media publications on these matters, which could impact the perception among certain audiences of the Company’s role as a corporate citizen.
The Company’s process of assessing and responding to the governmental investigations and the shareholder lawsuits continues. While the Company believes that it is probable that it will incur a loss from these matters, given the on-going nature and complexity of the review, inquiries and investigations, the Company cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from these matters. Although the Company does not presently believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on its business, given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, the Company can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to its business in the future.
Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.