Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s probe of possible bribery in Mexico may prompt executive departures and steep U.S. government fines if it reveals senior managers knew about the payments and didn’t take strong enough action, corporate governance experts said.
Wal-Mart said in an April 21 statement it is looking into a New York Times story that said its representatives in Mexico bribed local officials to get stores opened faster and that executives probed allegations as far back as 2005. In a December 2011 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Wal-Mart said it was examining whether it was in compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, without saying what region or when time period was in question.
Wal-Mart stock traded at the equivalent of $61.06 at 12:11 p.m. in Germany, down 2.2 percent from its April 20 close of $62.45 in New York. Wal-Mart stock has risen 4.5 percent this year, trailing Minneapolis-based Target Corp.’s 12 percent gain.
Wal-Mart started the latest investigation last fall through the board’s auditing committee, and Tovar said in the statement that the company hasn’t reached any conclusions yet. Wal-Mart will conduct training for its employees and put in place more robust policies and controls, according to the statement.