U.S. lawmakers launch Wal-Mart bribery investigation

Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:58pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Two Democratic lawmakers on Monday said they are launching an investigation into allegations of bribery at Wal-Mart Stores Inc's Mexican affiliate.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Representative Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Wal-Mart Chief Executive Michael Duke, requesting an in-person meeting with company officials.

The lawmakers also said they are contacting former Wal-Mart executives who may have documents or information relevant to a congressional investigation.

The New York Times this weekend reported that the world's largest retailer stymied an internal probe into bribery at its Mexican affiliate - Wal-Mart de Mexico (Walmex) in the middle of the last decade.

The allegations, if true, could be violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a U.S. law that forbids the payment of bribes to foreign government officials.

Cummings and Waxman said the New York Times report "raises significant questions about the actions of top company officials in the United States who reportedly tried to disregard substantial evidence of abuse."

The lawmakers told Duke that they want a meeting with company officials who can respond to the allegations no later than April 27.

They said they are also contacting Joseph Lewis, Wal-Mart's former director of corporate investigations; Maritza Munich, the former General Counsel of Wal-Mart International; and Sergio Cicero Zapata, a former executive in Wal-Mart de Mexico's real estate department.

Separately, lawmakers in Mexico called on authorities to investigate the bribery allegations.

(Reporting By Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

People walk past a Wal-Mart store with a banner reading "Low prices, every day, in everything" in Mexico City April 21, 2012. U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc squelched its own internal investigation of allegations made by a former executive of its subsidiary in Mexico that the Mexican division had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to grab market dominance, the New York Times reported on Saturday. REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya