Wal-Mart reveals lawyers, accountants on FCPA issues

Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:02pm EDT

Re-useable Walmart bags are seen in a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

Re-useable Walmart bags are seen in a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago September 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said on Wednesday that it named a former attorney earlier this year to oversee global compliance with a bribery law, as it deals with the fallout over alleged bribes in Mexico that recently came to light.

The world's largest retailer also outlined the high-profile lawyers, law firms and accountants helping with its ongoing investigation into the matter and its worldwide review of compliance.

The disclosures come after The New York Times reported on Saturday that a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an email from a former executive at Wal-Mart de Mexico (WALMEXV.MX) in September 2005 that described how the Mexican affiliate, known as Walmex, had paid bribes to obtain permits to build stores in Mexico.

On Tuesday, in an updated response to the Times report, Wal-Mart said that it had appointed a global officer to oversee compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law that forbids bribes to foreign officials. At that time it did not say when the job was created or who filled it.

On Wednesday, Wal-Mart said Tom Gean, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, was named global FCPA compliance officer earlier this year. Gean has worked for Wal-Mart since 2004.

The Times has said that it informed Wal-Mart about its ongoing reporting efforts last year. In December, Wal-Mart said that it was investigating whether certain matters, including permitting, licensing and inspections, were in compliance with FCPA and that it had engaged outside counsel and other advisers. At that time, it also said it had disclosed the probe to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the Times, Wal-Mart sent investigators to Mexico City and found a paper trail of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. But the company's leaders shut down the probe and did not notify U.S. or Mexican law enforcement officials until after the newspaper informed Wal-Mart it was looking into the issue, the Times reported.

Shares of both Wal-Mart and Walmex fell sharply on Monday and Tuesday in their first days of trading after the Times story ran. On Wednesday near midday, Wal-Mart shares were up 1 percent at $58.37, while Walmex shares were up 1.7 percent at 36.82 pesos ($2.80).

FIRMS WORKING ON INVESTIGATIONS

Law firm Jones Day is leading Wal-Mart's investigation and is reporting to the audit committee of the board, which is comprised of four independent directors. Deloitte DLTE.UL is the investigative forensic accountant assisting Jones Day on the investigation launched in November 2011, Wal-Mart said.

Cahill Gordon & Reindel is serving as outside counsel to the audit committee, Wal-Mart said.

Meanwhile, Greenberg Traurig is the outside counsel for the worldwide compliance review Wal-Mart says it started in March 2011, and reports to Gean. KPMG KPMG.UL is serving as compliance review accountant, assisting Greenberg Traurig.

Lawyers from Jones Day include Karen Hewitt, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California.

Lawyers from Cahill Gordon include David Kelley, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Lawyers from Greenberg Traurig include John Pappalardo, a former Attorney for the District of Massachusetts who also represented former Yukos Oil Company CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky when he was on trial for fraud and tax evasion.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago, additional reporting by Aruna Viswanatha in Washington; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis)

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