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Wal-Mart bribery scandal spreads to trade groups

April 26, 2012

The story about Wal-Mart’s alleged bribery of Mexican officials deepened on Wednesday, when two U.S. congressmen expanded their inquiry by questioning two trade associations about their lobbying efforts to amend the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As The Washington Post reported, representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) wrote separate letters to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Industry Leaders Association regarding the organizations’ work to revise the statute, which bans bribery of foreign government officials.

The lawmakers reportedly expressed concern about a possible conflict of interest if Wal-Mart was backing a campaign to relax enforcement of the statute at the same time that its corporate executives were facing corruption allegations in Mexico. A top Wal-Mart official sat on the board of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform as that organization sought to change the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and a senior Wal-Mart executive serves as a director at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the paper reported.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the firm has not participated in the lobbying effort to change the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A Chamber spokesperson reportedly said the group’s activities represented a desire to improve compliance with the law, which he said contains ambiguities that make it difficult for American businesses to compete in an increasingly global marketplace. But several experts said the changes being lobbied for would eviscerate the statute by limiting prosecutors’ enforcement options, the Post reported. — Greg Beaubien


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