Wal-Mart CEO Told of Bribery Claims in '05: Congressmen

Wal-Mart signage is seen in the parking lot of the store in Mexico City, Mexico.
Getty Images
Wal-Mart signage is seen in the parking lot of the store in Mexico City, Mexico.

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday released emails that appeared to show Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke knew as far back as 2005 of allegations that company representatives had bribed Mexican officials.

The emails appeared to contradict the company's public statements about a bribery scandal tied to its Mexican affiliate, Wal Mart de Mexico. Lawmakers said Wal-Mart did not dispute the authenticity of the emails.

In two reports last year, The New York Timesdescribed how Walmex used large bribes throughout Mexico to open stores it would otherwise have been unable to launch, and how Wal-Mart headquarters had stifled an early internal probe.

The second report focused on how Walmex allegedly paid $52,000 to change a zoning map so it could open a store near the ancient pyramids in Teotihuacan.

The company has maintained its senior executives did not recall mentions of bribery allegations related to the Teotihuacan store.

But in documents released by Reps. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, senior lawyers for the company told Duke about the Teotihuacan allegations in 2005.

One email from Wal-Mart General Counsel Thomas Mars in October 2005 provided Duke with a memo summarizing the allegations with a note saying: "You'll want to read this. I'm available to discuss next steps."

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart's spokeswoman, said in a statement on Thursday that there was no new information in the letter and that it has been providing information to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the documents that were released by lawmakers on Thursday. The world's largest retailer also said that it is exploring other ways to make additional information available

"We are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption program everywhere we operate and taking appropriate action for any instance of non-compliance," Brooke said.