Judge dismisses Wal-Mart’s bid to block Mexico bribe documents—because they’re already public

May 17, 2013
May 17, 2013

Yesterday, in a foreign bribery lawsuit by Wal-Mart shareholders against the retailer, Delaware chancellor Leo Strine declined a request to keep out of evidence documents that were already publicly available. (He also ordered attorneys representing Wal-mart shareholders to return certain documents obtained from an anonymous whistleblower.)

The government is investigating whether Wal-Mart tried to cover up an internal probe about Wal-Mart employees bribing Mexican government officials to speed along Mexican store constructions, which was first reported by the New York Times in 2012. Wal-Mart says it has since changed its internal procedures and strengthened compliance guidelines. 

But the documents Wal-Mart tried to exclude from the shareholder lawsuit in Delaware are already available on the websites for the New York Times and the US House of Representative’s Oversight Committee. Strine said it would be “ridiculous” to strike them from the court record.

The investigations have been costly for a company whose sales are lagging. During its earnings call yesterday, Wal-Mart said it spent $73 million on the FCPA matter and would spend another $65 million to $70 million on it in the next quarter (after spending $157 million on the probe during the previous fiscal year).

Yesterday, Wal-Mart reported that revenues rose just 1% to $114.19 billion. Profit also increased roughly 1% to $3.78 billion. Wal-Mart blamed the performance on payroll tax increases dampening US consumer spending.

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