Wal-Mart expects bigger loss from bribery probe

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 84 views 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it incurred $157 million in expenses during fiscal 2013 relating to the ongoing investigations linked to alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in several of its international markets.

The retailer expects those costs will escalate as the investigation has expanded from Mexico and now includes probes in Brazil, India and China. The assessment from Wal-Mart was noted in its annual 10K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that was released Tuesday (March 26).

Costs associated with the ongoing investigation totaled $99 million in the company’s third quarter. Despite a 58% increase in expenses in the recent quarter, Wal-Mart noted in the filing that it does not believe the total will have a material impact on the company’s financial soundness.

The retailer did say it expects a variety of negative consequences as a result of the investigation.

“One or more enforcement actions could be instituted in respect of the matters that are the subject of some or all of the on-going government investigations, and such actions, if brought, may result in judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions, cease and desist orders, debarment or other relief, criminal convictions and/or penalties,” the filing notes.

“The existing and any additional shareholder lawsuits may result in judgments against us and our current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. We cannot predict at this time the outcome or impact of the government investigations, the shareholder lawsuits, or our own internal investigations and review.”

The retail titan says it voluntarily disclosed internal investigative findings to the U.S. Department of Justice in November 2011. But the entire world became aware of the allegations in April 2012 when the New York Times made the bribery investigation public.

In August 2012,  the SEC began requiring Wal-Mart to give more details and better transparency to its shareholders in regulatory filings. Several shareholder lawsuits were filed last year and remain in litigation.

The SEC requires Wal-Mart to state the possible loss estimates or give reasons justifying why not, given the magnitude of the investigation.

In addition to full cooperation with national and foreign regulatory agencies, Wal-Mart’s own audit committee in conducting a voluntary global review of all policies, practices and internal controls for FCPA compliance in an effort to strengthening its global anti-corruption compliance programs.

Wal-Mart profits totaled $17 billion on sales of $469 billion last year.

While corporate governance experts say the fines and total fallout could be hefty in terms of implicated personnel and fines levied, the stock has continued to show resilience trading at $74.73, down 4 cents at the noon hour Wednesday.

Over the past 52 weeks Wal-Mart stock has risen from a low of $57.18 which was set April 25 to a new high of $77.60 set in October 2012.