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January 11, 2013

Lawmakers release documents on Wal-Mart bribery case

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s CEO Mike Duke found out in 2005 that the retailer’s Mexico unit was handing out bribes to local officials, according to emails obtained by lawmakers.

The lawmakers say the emails contradict earlier claims by Wal-Mart that executives weren’t aware of bribes being made by the company.

Democratic Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and Henry A. Waxman, who are investigating bribery charges at Wal-Mart’s Mexico division, on Thursday released emails that indicate that Duke and other senior Wal-Mart officials were informed multiple times starting in 2005 about bribes being made in the country. U.S. law forbids American companies from bribing foreign officials.

The lawmakers shared the emails, which they say they got from a confidential source, with Wal-Mart on Wednesday, and sent a letter to Duke asking for a meeting to discuss them.

“It would be a serious matter if the CEO of one of our nation’s largest companies failed to address allegations of a bribery scheme,” according to the letter written by Waxman and Cummings to Duke.

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said on Thursday that the letter that Waxman and Cummings wrote to Duke “leaves the wrong impression that our public statements are contradicted by the information they released today.”

Allegations first surfaced in April that Wal-Mart failed to notify law enforcement that company officials authorized millions of dollars in bribes in Mexico to speed up getting building permits and gain other favors. Wal-Mart has been working with government officials in the U.S. and Mexico on that investigation.

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