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Bloomberg reports that Walmart has rejected a proposal by the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission that it pay $600 million to resolve investigations "into whether it bribed government officials in markets from Mexico to India and China ... Such a settlement would rank among the largest in four decades under a U.S. law against bribing foreign officials to obtain business."

Walmart already has spent close to $800 million on attorneys' fees and an internal investigation into the bribery issue.

The story says that with Walmart's rejection of the government proposal, "prosecutors have gone back to elicit more evidence from witnesses about alleged bribe-paying in Mexico." If it is successful, the Journal writes, the feds could propose a penalty that would cost Walmart a lot more than $600 million.

There are some wrinkles that the Journal points out. Some of the evidence could be too old to prosecute. At the same time, federal officials would like to wrap up the case before a new administration takes office in January.

The Journal writes that "the U.S.’s proposed penalty accounts for the profits Wal-Mart reaped from stores it was able to open quickly after allegedly paying officials to speed zoning and building permits, said the people, who asked to not be named because the matter is confidential. Calculating a fine based only on the amount of the alleged bribes, as the department has done in some cases, would yield a lower penalty, they said.

"Even as the sides are grappling over the size of a penalty, they are also discussing whether there will be any criminal charges against any part of the company, the people said."
KC's View:
This is a calculated bet on Walmart's part, believing that it can in some ways run out the clock on the investigation ... or at least hold out for a smaller number. To be honest, I would've thought that these charges would have come crashing down on Walmart's head by now, and am surprised that they haven't. So whoever is playing the odds on this case in Bentonville is doing a pretty good job. So far.