Wal-Mart reorganizes compliance office amid bribery probe

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 80 views 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, combined its compliance office with ethics, investigations and legal functions to form one organization amid a bribery probe at the company’s Mexico operations.

The new unit will report to the company’s general counsel, Wal-Mart said today in a memo. The retailer also hired Jay Jorgensen, an attorney with Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, as global chief compliance officer.

Revelations of the scandal first hit April 21 when the New York Times reported “campaign of bribery” that was allegedly managed by former Wal-Mart de Mexico CEO Eduardo Castro Wright. The bribery schemes allowed Wal-Mart to obtain construction and other permits quicker than its competitors.

According to the New York Times report, top Wal-Mart execs were alerted to the problem but shut down the internal investigation.

The moves to combine the various offices come after Wal-Mart named Daniel Trujillo to the new position of senior vice president and chief compliance officer of its international operations earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating allegations that Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials so it could more quickly open stores, possibly violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, was little changed at $74.82 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 25% this year.

Jorgensen previously served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist and Samuel Alito while he was at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, according to the memo. Wal-Mart declined to make Jorgensen available for an interview.

The company has spent more than $30 million over the past 17 months to implement its new global anti-corruption compliance program, according to the memo.

As part of the effort, company “Ethics Officers” outside the U.S. now must report to Wal-Mart International rather than to the CEOs in their respective countries, the memo said.