Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s probe of possible bribery in Mexico mayprompt executive departures and steep U.S. government fines if itreveals senior managers knew about the payments and didn't takestrong enough action, corporate governance experts said.

Wal-Mart said in an April 21 statement it is looking into a NewYork Times story that said its representatives in Mexico bribedlocal officials to get stores opened faster and that executivesprobed allegations as far back as 2005. In a December 2011 U.S.Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Wal-Mart said it wasexamining whether it was in compliance with the Foreign CorruptPractices Act, without saying what region or when time period wasin question.

At the time Wal-Mart conducted an initial internal probe andended it in 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice was starting tocrack down on foreign bribery cases. Waiting for years to disclosethe case may mean tougher sanctions for the retailer and forindividuals, governance and legal experts said.

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