Walmart is under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice over allegations that it doled out millions in bribes to Mexican officials in order to grow its business there more quickly, sources tell Bloomberg and the Washington Post. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits companies from paying foreign officials in an effort to increase business, and if Walmart is found to be in violation of FCPA, the company could face executive departures, slowed expansion in Mexico and other markets, and penalties that could be "incredibly high," says one lawyer.
In a note to employees yesterday, Walmart CEO Mike Duke said the company is conducting its own "aggressive investigation" into the allegations; in an earlier statement, a VP had noted that "many of the alleged activities ... are more than six years old. If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for." The top Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee also moved yesterday to open a probe into the incident. Walmart shares dove after the allegations came to light.