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The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that the three-year federal investigation into alleged systemic and systematic bribery by Walmart of foreign officials as a way of greasing the wheels of expansion has had mixed results, with India replacing Mexico as a place where Walmart's money apparently bought the most influence.

In Mexico, the story says, the probe "has found little in the way of major offenses, and is likely to result in a much smaller case than investigators first expected ... The three-year investigation isn’t over, but most of the work has been completed, and it is possible the case could be resolved with a fine and no criminal charges leveled against individual Wal-Mart executives."

In India, however, "investigators found evidence of bribery ... centering on widespread but relatively small payments made to local officials there ... Wal-Mart is likely to face U.S. foreign-bribery charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act over those payments," the story says.

The investigation was launched after a New York Times article charged that the widespread bribery had taken place, but the Journal story says that some of the evidence found by investigators contradicted what the Times reported. Indeed, the Journal also writes that "the federal findings so far largely match up with the results of an internal probe Wal-Mart launched in the wake of questions from the New York Times."

Still, the Journal also notes that the probes have not been completed, and that it remains a possibility that additional infractions and crimes could be uncovered. But the general tenor of the story is that things are not nearly as bad for Walmart as some expected.

Neither federal investigators or Walmart are commenting on the report.
KC's View:
I have to admit that I'm surprised by this revelation - it wasn't that I thought Walmart was sleazy, but I did think that it seems entirely credible that a US company would resort to such tactics when doing business in a foreign country. (Hell, there were a lot of people who thought Walmart was entirely within its rights to bribe Mexican officials, and criticized me for criticizing Walmart.)

If this report is accurate, I have to imagine it moves a big problem off CEO Doug McMillon's desk ... and he can get to work fixing the even bigger problems that are plaguing his operations.