Walmart chairman Robson Walton vowed Friday that the world’s largest retailer would not tolerate corrupt acts, in the wake of a scandal about bribes the company allegedly paid in Mexico.
Speaking to shareholders at their annual general meeting, Walton promised “a thorough and comprehensive inquiry” into the Mexico accusations and said the company was cooperating with government investigators.
“We are taking allegations related to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) very seriously,” Walton said at the meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Let me be clear. Acting with integrity is not a negotiable part of this business,” he said.
“We will not tolerate violations of the FCPA or ethical wrongdoings of any kind.”
In April, The New York Times reported, citing company officials and documents, that officials of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had paid more than $24 million in bribes in Mexico in the 2000s to build its business there.
The company has called the case an old matter that it had already dealt with, but US judicial authorities and the Securities and Exchange Commission are probing the case.
Walton, son of the retail giant’s legendary founder Sam Walton, said the company’s independent directors and an outside counsel were also investigating the matter.
“We are also cooperating with the Department of Justice and the SEC to find out exactly what happened,” he said.
In a separate speech Wal-Mart chief executive Mike Duke stressed that Walmart “is committed to compliance and integrity everywhere we operate.”
“I want to personally assure you, we’re doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this matter. We will take appropriate action when the investigation is complete.”
Despite complaints from large institutional investors about the board’s handling of the allegations, and a shareholder lawsuit filed in Tennessee last month over the matter, the entire slate of candidates for the company’s board was reelected at Friday’s meeting.
The Walton family controls nearly half of the 50-year-old company’s shares, making it unlikely that minority shareholders could force a change against their will.