ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Wal-Mart agreed on Thursday to pay $ 282 million to settle federal allegations of corruption abroad, including more than $ 500,000 for an intermediary in Brazil who was known as a "sorcerer" for his unusual ability to allow construction problems. to vanish.
US officials have pursued Walmart under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits US companies operating overseas from using bribery and other illegal methods.
The nation's largest chain of stores has settled the civil charges of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a criminal case filed by federal prosecutors in Virginia. He said the two settlements close the books on federal investigations dating back to 2012 and collectively cost the company more than $ 900 million.
"We are pleased to address this issue," Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. "Walmart is committed to doing business the right way, and that means acting ethically wherever we operate. We have improved our policies, procedures and systems and invested global resources in ethics and compliance, and now we have strong global anticorruption compliance" . Program."
In the criminal case, Walmart agreed to pay $ 138 million to avoid lawsuits, while its Brazilian subsidiary, WMT Brasilia, pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As for the civil case, the SEC announced a $ 144 million settlement against Walmart for "failing to operate a sufficient anticorruption compliance program" in Brazil, China, India and Mexico.
"Walmart valued international growth and cost cutting over compliance," said Charles Cain, head of the SEC unit that oversees violations of the FCPA. "The company could have avoided many of these problems, but instead, Walmart repeatedly failed to take the red flags seriously and delayed the implementation of appropriate internal accounting controls."
The criminal case focused on corruption in Brazil in 2009 and 2010 and involved what officials said was malfunctioning by the subsidiary that led the parent company to file inaccurate financial records.
The money that went into the broker was registered as payments to a construction company, although there were numerous red flags indicating that the broker was actually a government official, officials said. Walmart Brazil was barred when it came to hiring government employees.
The newspapers do not identify the middleman, but say she has become known within Walmart Brazil as a "sorceress" or "genius" for her "ability to quickly obtain permits" classifying things as magic. ""
A Walmart Brazil representative did not comment.
Walmart's foreign practices have been under investigation since 2012. The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting that year that exposed millions of dollars in bribes made by Walmart executives to facilitate growth in Mexico.
According to the SEC, companies such as Halliburton, Anheuser-Busch InBev, JPMorgan and Panasonic have reached agreements under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, ranging from $ 6 million to $ 264 million in recent years. Last year, a Brazilian energy company agreed to pay about $ 1.8 billion.
Walmart, of Bentonville, Ark., Recently released quarterly results of $ 3.84 billion. The company announced last year it has decided to sell 80% of its stake in Walmart Brazil to Advent International, with a loss of $ 4.5 billion. At the time, the subsidiary had 438 stores in Brazil.
AP correspondent Yesica Fisch in Rio de Janeiro and AP Business Editor Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this story.