Shareholder sues Wal-Mart to get Mexico bribery documents

Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:08am EDT
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By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - An Indiana union pension fund that owns shares in Wal-Mart Stores Inc has sued the company to gain access to thousands of internal documents related to allegations that a Wal-Mart subsidiary bribed Mexican government officials.

The complaint is the latest challenge to Wal-Mart following a report by The New York Times in April that said Wal-Mart had found evidence its Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico, allegedly paid bribes to facilitate the awarding of store permits. The paper at the time reported the company's corporate headquarters stifled an internal probe into the allegations.

Investors in light of the Times' article sued Wal-Mart and its board of directors in Delaware's Court of Chancery. The lawsuits accused the company's officers and directors of breaching their fiduciary duties to Wal-Mart and its shareholders.

The latest lawsuit, also filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery, said the company had made a "woefully deficient" production of documents following an earlier out-of-court demand. What documents were produced were "so heavily redacted," or blacked out, they were nearly worthless, the pension fund said.

The complaint, made public Thursday, is itself redacted. Wal-Mart was given three days to redact the complaint, which was filed Monday.

"Wal-Mart's overuse of redactions is unjustified," the Indiana Electrical Workers Pension Trust Fund IBEW said in the complaint.

The lawsuit also said an unidentified whistleblower had mailed documents to the fund's lawyers "substantiating numerous facts" in the Times' article related to bribes paid by Wal-Mart de Mexico, or WalMex.

The whistleblower's documents include e-mails from individuals involved in a 2005-2006 internal investigation at Wal-Mart, the complaint said.   Continued...

Shoppers walk from a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City, August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido