Walmart Stores Inc. said in its Form 10-Q filed with the SEC on June 6 that it cut FCPA investigations and compliance-related costs for the quarter ended April 30 by $20 million year-over-year.
Quarterly spending for “ongoing inquiries and investigations” dropped to $34 million from $44 million in the prior year.
Global compliance and enhancement costs were $19 million, compared with $29 million for the same quarter last year.
Total FCPA and compliance-related spending for the April 30 quarter amounted to $53 million compared to $73 million last year, Walmart said.
The company said it is still dealing with inquiries and investigations about “allegations of potential FCPA violations” in Mexico, Brazil, China, and India, among other places.
Walmart said in its fiscal 2014 Global Compliance Program Report published in April that it had spent $439 million in legal fees and other costs associated with investigations of alleged FCPA violations, and to revamp its global compliance protocol.
In April 2012, the New York Times reported in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story that the company’s Mexico unit paid $24 million in bribes to speed up licensing and permitting for new stores. The story said top managers in the United States covered up the bribery after learning about it.
Walmart said it self reported its internal investigation of the Mexico allegations in late 2011 and has cooperated since then with the DOJ and SEC, and with investigative agencies in other countries.
Here’s the full FCPA disclosure from Walmart Stores Inc.’s Form 10-Q filed with the SEC on June 6, 2014:
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 program 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 anticorruption compliance program, 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 months ended April 30, 2014 and 2013, the Company incurred the following third-party expenses in connection with the FCPA investigation and related matters:
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.