Wal-Mart: A pricey corruption inquiry ahead
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) may end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars to investigate allegations that it bribed Mexican officials if the government expands its probe into other countries, according to former federal prosecutor Amy Conway-Hatcher. Wal-Mart is examining claims raised by an April 21 New York Times story that said executives in Mexico paid more than $24 million in bribes to speed its expansion there, and covered up the results of an internal probe. The Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the matter, a person familiar with the probe said. In the past year, the company has created a new global anti-bribery compliance post at its headquarters.
Apple: Profit nearly doubles on China sales
Robust demand for the iPhone in China fueled a 94 percent surge in Apple’s quarterly profit, to $11.6 billion. The country now accounts for 20 percent of the company’s revenue. Worldwide, Apple (AAPL) logged a 59 percent increase in sales during its fiscal second quarter. The stock jumped as much as 10 percent, to $618, on April 25, the first day of trading after the announcement. That nearly erased declines earlier in the month prompted by reports that sales of the iPhone were slowing in the U.S. and that the company faced shortages of key components.
Planetary Resources: Big-name backers for a space venture
Google (GOOG) Chief Executive Officer Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt are among the backers of a venture to mine asteroids for precious metals, as earth’s resources become strained. Planetary Resources aims to launch a telescopic surveyor into earth’s orbit within two years to identify potential targets and begin prospecting within four years. The venture also plans to develop galactic “gas stations” that will use hydrogen and oxygen in asteroid water to refuel spacecraft, including satellites.
MetLife: Settling a probe into death benefits
MetLife (MET), the largest U.S. life insurer, will pay about $500 million to settle a multistate probe into whether it and other insurers keep death payouts owed to beneficiaries. Regulators say the insurers, who learn of deaths through Social Security data, should try harder to pay beneficiaries who haven’t submitted claims. MetLife will pay $188 million in 2012 and the rest over 17 years. It says nearly all claims are submitted by beneficiaries and are paid quickly. MetLife is also starting monthly reviews to identify unclaimed death benefits.
BP: First criminal arrest in Gulf spill
A former BP (BP) engineer was arrested on charges of intentionally destroying evidence requested by U.S. authorities about the size of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New Orleans, Kurt Mix, who worked on internal BP efforts to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well, is charged with deleting text messages between him and a supervisor. Mix entered no plea at an April 24 hearing. BP, which declined to comment on the case, says it will continue to cooperate with the investigation.