Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke addresses shareholders at Walmart Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Flickr/Walmart Corporate)
Three updates, with additional comments from Walmart and a Democratic staffer, appear below.
Two Democratic Congressmen today released internal Walmart documents which they said appear to directly contradict Walmart’s recent claims regarding alleged rampant bribery by its Mexico subsidiary. The documents include what appear to be seven year-old e-mails in which current Walmart CEO Mike Duke was directly informed of the scandal. At the time, Duke was serving as Walmart vice chairman, responsible for Walmart international.
“We are concerned that your company’s public statements that the company was unaware of the allegations appear to be inconsistent with documents we have obtained through our investigation,” representatives Henry Waxman and Elijah Cummings wrote in a letter to Walmart CEO Michael Duke released this morning. “Contrary to Wal-Mart’s public statements, the documents appear to show that you were personally advised of the allegations in October 2005.” Cummings and Waxman are the ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee, respectively. Walmart did not immediately respond to the Nation’s request for comment.
The congressmen’s findings echo those of a separate investigation by the New York Times, the paper that first broke news of the scandal in April. In a 7,600-word exposé published three weeks ago, the Times found that in 2006, Walmart headquarters shut down an internal investigation of bribery in Mexico, despite “a wealth of evidence” supporting the allegations, and thus “authorities were not notified.” Unlike today’s letter, the Times story did not mention Duke himself.
The December 17 New York Times story reported, also based on confidential documents, that Walmart de Mexico used illegal payoffs in its pursuit of at least nineteen Mexico store sites. According to reporters David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Betrab, those included a field just outside the historic pyramids in Teotihuacan, an area where Walmart otherwise “almost surely would not have been allowed to build…”
In their letter, Cummings and Waxman note that the Times reported that Walmart Vice President for Communications David Tovar “said that while executives in the United States were aware of the furor in Teotihuacan they did not know about the corruption allegations.” Tovar also told the Times, “None of the associates we have interviewed, including people responsible for real estate projects in Mexico during this time period, recall any mention of bribery allegations related to this store.”
“However,” write the congressmen, “documents obtained by our staffs from a confidential source indicate that you and other senior Wal-Mart officials were personally informed about these bribery allegations on multiple occasions.” Among the e-mails they cite is one sent to Duke and others by Walmart International’s then–General Counsel, Maritza Munich, on November 1, 2005. In the e-mail, Munich summarizes an interview conducted with Walmart de Mexico’s former in-house counsel, Sergio Cicero Zapata: “The payments at the Teotihuacan site were made only to the majority of the Municipal Council…. Eventually the agreement was only reached with the [Mexican political parties] PRI and PRD representatives (sufficient to secure a majority) for a total net payment of 1.2 million pesos.”