Wal-Mart Hushed Up a Vast Mexican Bribery Case

MEXICO CITY — In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an 
alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign
subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations,
the former executive 
described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win 
market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes 
to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.
The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, 
he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining 
construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.
Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed 
evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect 
payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing 
that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, 
but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, 
Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, 
a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: 
“There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA 
laws have been violated.”
The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.
Instead, an examination by The New York Times found,
Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.
Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. 
None of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders were disciplined. Indeed, 
its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive 
as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman 
of Wal-Mart in 2008. Until this article, the allegations and Wal-Mart’s
 investigation had never been publicly disclosed.
But The Times’s examination uncovered a prolonged struggle at 
the highest levels of Wal-Mart, a struggle that pitted the company’s 
much publicized commitment to the highest moral and ethical 
standards against its relentless pursuit of growth. (...)

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Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab and 
James C. McKinley Jr. contributed reporting from Mexico City.