The Economist: “The Anti-Bribery Business”

Even for a company with Wal-mart’s heft, $800 million is a sizable sum. That is what the giant retailer will have spent by the end of this fiscal year on its internal probe into alleged bribing of Mexican officials, into whether subsidiaries elsewhere may have been greasing palms and on related compliance improvements.

By the time bribe-busters at America’s Department of Justice are done with their own investigation, which began in 2012, Wal-mart’s bill for lawyers’ and forensic accountants’ fees will be well above $1 billion — and perhaps closer to $2 billion. To that can be added whatever fines it may incur, any bills for settling related private litigation, and the harder-to-quantify cost of the tens of thousands of man-hours managers have spent on what has become a big distraction from everyday business.

The case is not trivial, to be sure. It involves suspicions that bribes were paid to clear the way for construction of dozens of new stores and warehouses, thus helping Wal-mart to outflank competitors. The case has been widened to include the granting of permits in China, Brazil, and India….


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