Walmart, the Bentonville-based retailer, will pay $282 million to settle a federal investigation into questionable payments it made to do business in foreign countries.
The investigation began after the Times in 2012 reported suspicious payments Walmart had made in Mexico. The newspaper reported cash payments to win friends, permits and zoning decisions. The Times also had reported that the company learned of the practice in 2005, but shut down an internal investigation and didn’t report the matter to authorities.
The investigation into potential corrupt practices spread to China, Brazil and India.
On Thursday, the S.E.C. said that it found that Walmart failed to “operate a sufficient anti-corruption compliance program for more than a decade as the retailer experienced rapid international growth.”
A subsidiary of the company will plead guilty to charges in Brazil related to payments made to someone known as “sorceress” and “genie” for the ability to obtain building permits quickly.
Here’s the Walmart release on the settlement, less than the $600 million the government had once sought. It says the company has cooperated with the Department of Justice and taken steps to strengthen anti-corruption programs. It said it has spent $900 million in the course of responding to the investigation.
Walmart said it’s committed to doing things the right way.
As part of the resolution, Walmart entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ. The DOJ will not prosecute the Company if, for a period of three years, the Company meets its obligations set forth in the agreement. Walmart has also agreed to an administrative order with the SEC to resolve SEC findings related to violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions. In addition, WMT Brasilia S.a.r.l., an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Walmart, has entered a guilty plea in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia as part of the agreement with the DOJ for causing a books and records violation of the FCPA.
Walmart has also agreed with the DOJ to oversight by an independent compliance monitor with a limited scope for a period of two years. Also, Walmart has agreed to report to the SEC on its Anti-Corruption Compliance Program for a period of two years.