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Communications in the Wal-Mart Bribe Inquiry

With a New York Times headline that reads, "Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle," news can only be bad for the world's largest corporate employer. Of course, the evidence is that revealer of so many corporate secrets: email.

The New York Times article reports the severity of the situation:

"Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: 'There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.'"

"The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

"Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down."

The article also points to several internal communications about the situation:

  • Rather than hire outside, independent investigators, Wal-Mart leadership decided that its own legal counsel would oversee a "preliminary inquiry." 
  • In what is referred to in the article as a "terse report," the director of corporate investigations for Wal‑Mart in 2005, says that the situation is "not looking good."

Wal-Mart Mexico

Apparently, more than $16 million dollars was paid in "donations" or "contributions" to the Mexican government since 2003 to secure permits and build several stores in Mexico.

The first comment selected by the NY Times staff reflects public cynicism about the company:

Wal-Mart Mexico Comment
Discussion Staters:

  • Does the news about Wal-Mart in Mexico surprise you? Why or why not?
  • Once again, how can people protect their communications from becoming public?
  • How, if at all, should Wal-Mart respond to this situation?
  • A follow-up NY Times article says that "...Bribery Is Taken in Stride" in Mexico. How, if at all, does that affect your perspective of this Wal-Mart situation?