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Wal-Mart Starts Corruption Probes in Brazil, China, India

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. started inquiries into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at operations in Brazil, India and China, adding to its probe of bribery allegations in Mexico.

The board’s audit committee and the company identified or became aware of the possible FCPA violations since starting a global review of its compliance programs, the world’s biggest retailer said yesterday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The new inquiries aren’t limited to those countries, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart said.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC are already investigating allegations that Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials so it could more quickly open stores in the country. Federal and local government agencies in Mexico also are involved in investigations of those matters. Wal-Mart said in yesterday’s filing that it’s cooperating with the probes.

Several of Wal-Mart’s shareholders have filed lawsuits against the company, current and former directors and officers, and past and present officers of the Walmex unit.

Wal-Mart said the costs of responding to investigations by the DOJ and SEC as well as defending itself from lawsuits and conducting its own probe were $99 million in the nine months ended October. The company is the biggest in the U.S. by sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Anthony Rose, a Wal-Mart Asia spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations until investigations were concluded.

‘Very Seriously’

“We take compliance with the FCPA very seriously and are committed to having a strong and effective global compliance program in every country in which we operate,” Rose said in an e-mail today.

An Indian lawmaker wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office questioning whether Wal-Mart violated rules while making Indian investments, a Commerce Ministry official in New Delhi said last month, asking not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject.

India’s Enforcement Directorate will seek documents from Wal-Mart relating to its financial investments and remittances in the country, Press Trust of India reported Nov. 15, citing a person it didn’t identify.

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