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In response to a Dec. 17 article in The New York Times that details allegations of corruption involved in the permitting and licensing process for a Walmart de Mexico store in Teotihuacan, Mexico, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it was continuing to look into the matter as part of a broader investigation of potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Overseen by the audit committee of the company’s board, which consists entirely of independent directors, the probe began more than a year ago, according to David Tovar, the mega-retailer’s VP, corporate communications, who added that Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart was also still cooperating with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission on the matter.
“At this point, the investigation is still ongoing and we have not yet reached final conclusions,” Tovar said. “A thorough and independent investigation will take time to complete.” He declined to say more, citing the need not to “jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.”
In the meantime, the company has “made significant improvements to our compliance programs around the world and have taken a number of specific, concrete actions with respect to our processes, procedures and people,” Tovar asserted.
These actions include establishing several new compliance positions around the world, directing more than 300 third-party legal and accounting experts to address the issue, conducting more than 85 in-country visits and more than 1,000 interviews of market personnel, spending more than $35 million on new processes and procedures, and holding training sessions attended by more than 19,000 associates.
“We are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption program everywhere we operate and taking appropriate action for any instance of noncompliance,” said Tovar.
The article comes in the wake of earlier Times allegations of corruption in Mexico last April, and the widening of Walmart's probe to include Brazil, China and India.