Wal-Mart Stores Inc. officials must turn over more internal files on what directors knew about claims that executives handed out bribes to facilitate Mexican real-estate deals, a judge ruled.
The world's largest retailer must provide documents about how officials set up the investigation of the Mexican bribery allegations and some files the company argued were covered by the attorney-client privilege, Delaware Chancery Court Judge Leo Strine ruled today in Wilmington. Investors are seeking the files as part of suits over claims that Wal-Mart directors didn't properly oversee company operations.
The company "can't sanitize its response" to shareholders' requests for documents about the board's handling of the bribery claims, Strine said at a hearing.
U.S. and Mexican prosecutors said last year that they are investigating the bribery allegations, first reported by the New York Times. The newspaper said an executive of Wal-Mart's Mexican unit alerted company officials in 2005 about bribes paid to facilitate construction of new stores and warehouses.
At least $24 million in "suspect payments" were made as part of scheme, the Times said, citing internal files. The newspaper also said Wal-Mart executives in the U.S. and Mexico limited the company's investigation into the bribery scheme.
Internal documents showed Wal-Mart's Mexican unit used a state governor in Mexico to facilitate $156,000 in bribes, Bloomberg News reported this year. The files were released by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who are investigating the allegations.