BENTONVILLE, Ark., April 22 (UPI) -- Walmart says it is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate allegations it illegally covered up a bribery scheme at its Mexican subsidiary.
The alleged bribery involved hundreds of payments totaling more than $24 million to local Mexican leaders to speed up the permitting process to build new Walmart stores, The New York Times reported Sunday.
In September 2005, a senior Walmart lawyer said a former executive at Walmart de Mexico alerted him to the bribery campaign, but instead of expanding upon the initial investigation, which found Mexican and U.S. laws had been violated, Walmart's leaders shut it down, the Times' investigation found.
The general counsel, who had allegedly authorized the bribes at Walmart de Mexico, had been assigned to lead the investigation, and he promptly exonerated his fellow executives, the newspaper said.
"The wisdom of assigning any investigative role to management of the business unit being investigated escapes me," Maritza I. Munich, then general counsel of Wal-Mart International, wrote in an e-mail to top Walmart executives.
Walmart vice president of corporate communications, David Tovar, said in a statement Saturday that the company has self-disclosed its ongoing investigation to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for," he said. "We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened."