Wal-Mart, the nations largest retailer, has been implicated in a "systemic and widespread" bribery scandal, with at least $24 million believed to have been used to pay local officials to receive permits for new stores.
News of the scandal was first reported by the NYTimes, and involved several top executives for Wal-Mart's Mexico operations, Wal-Mart de Mexico. According to the report, executives at Wal-Mart de Mexico executives including Eduardo Castro-Wright paid local officials to receive building permits and preferential treatment to control the discount retail market in Mexico.
The investigation report says that in 2005, a former executive at Wal-Mart de Mexico emailed the current lawyer for Wal-Mart and gave detailed information about payments, amounts, locations and named of Wal-Mart de Mexico executives and local officials. This report was sent to Wal-Mart headquarters who then launched its own investigation by a former FBI agent it hired who uncovered further evidence, and a lot of it. His report was sent to Bentonville, AR, Wal-Mart's headquarters.
The report spells out how several laws both in Mexico and the US were broken and Wal-Mart officials at its headquarters decided to put the report into a deep freeze, and do damage control rather than take action.
In 2008, Castro-Wright was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart. According to reports, then Chairman H. Lee Scott Jr called the report overly aggressive and dismissed the report.
Despite this, Wal-Mart's general counsel informed the US Justice Department that Wal-Mart was conducting an internal investigation and that the company had possibly violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies from bribing foreign officials.
Wal-Mart de Mexico is Mexico's largest private employer with over 200,000 employees in Mexico.
Wal-Mart headquarters have now said they are taking the investigation seriously.
Wal-Mart has had past legal problems, suffering from discrimination lawsuits and a deepening public relations quagmire that is pays its employees very little and schedules hours to skit having to provide health insurance or other insurance.