Wal-Mart reveals probe of possible overseas bribes

CNN | December 9, 2011
By Julia Talanova

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, says it's investigating whether its workers violated international bribery laws.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday, Wal-Mart disclosed a probe into whether its workers violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that prohibits giving bribes to international officials. The retailer said the possible bribes pertained to such matters as obtaining permits and licenses, as well as to inspections.

"We are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption program and have had anti-corruption policies in place for many years," said David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, in an e-mailed statement. "We expect every associate to act in a responsible manner and comply with all laws."

Though it did not reveal specific details regarding which countries or individuals were involved, Wal-Mart said it initiated the probe after discovering information during an internal review and through outside sources.

"Our investigation is currently focused on discrete incidents in specific areas," said Tovar. 

The filing stated that Wal-Mart alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department about the ongoing investigation. Both the SEC and Justice declined to comment on the filing, citing their policies.

Wal-Mart said it hired outside advisers to help with the investigation. It said it is unable to estimate the damages, but believe it will not have any financial impact.

According to the retailer's website, Wal-Mart currently has more than 9,800 stores in 28 nations -- 5,366 stores are outside the United States.