Wal-Mart bribery review includes Brazil, China

WASHINGTON Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:39pm IST

A shopper carts her purchases from a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City, April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/Files

A shopper carts her purchases from a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City, April 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Edgard Garrido/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) have flagged Brazil, China, India and South Africa in addition to Mexico, as countries that represent the highest corruption risk in a global review, according to a letter from lawmakers investigating the company.

The lawyers said they were retained to review Wal-Mart policies in Mexico, Brazil and China, and later recommended the company also evaluate its operations in India and South Africa. The lawyers referred to those five countries as regions where the risk was the greatest, according to the lawmakers.

The company has acknowledged it is investigating bribery allegations involving its Mexican operations, and that it is conducting a global review of its anti-corruption compliance program, but has not provided details about the review.

The new details came in a letter from two Democratic lawmakers, Representatives Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman, who are the ranking members, respectively, of the House Oversight and House Energy committees.

The pair wrote to Wal-Mart Chief Executive Michael Duke on Tuesday and asked him to provide additional documents and allow certain witnesses to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the bribery allegations.

Outside lawyers for Wal-Mart briefed the lawmakers on May 21 about the company's program to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1970s-era law that bars bribes to officials of foreign governments.

But the lawyers did not answer any questions about the substance of the bribery allegations, which were brought to light in an April 21 New York Times report that said that management at Wal-Mart de Mexico (WALMEXV.MX) orchestrated bribes of $24 million to help it grow quickly in the last decade and that Wal-Mart's top brass tried to cover it up.

The two lawmakers have previously expressed frustration about the information they have received from Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart representatives did not immediately respond to a request for a comment, but the company has said it is "committed to a full and independent investigation," and that "it would be inappropriate for us or others to come to conclusions before the investigation is complete."

(Reporting By Aruna Viswanatha in Washington and Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by John Wallace and Tim Dobbyn)

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