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So when you get caught breaking the law, lobby to get it tossed

For those of you who haven't been paying attention lately, WalMart is under investigation for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Corrupt_Practices_Act
http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa/

>Wal-Mart, the giant retailer now under fire over allegations of foreign bribery in Mexico, has participated in an aggressive and high-priced lobbying campaign to amend the long-standing U.S. anti-bribery law that the company might have violated.

>Wal-Mart’s corporate secretary and top ethics officer, Thomas D. Hyde, who stepped down from his job at Wal-Mart in 2010, was among the company executives who received initial reports of the bribes in 2005, the Times reported.

>Between 2003 and 2010, public records show, Hyde sat on the 40-member board of the Institute of Legal Reform, a division of the U.S. Chamber that has led the way in criticizing parts of the law and talking about the need to change it.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/wal-mart-took-part-in-lobbying-campaign-to-amend-anti-bribery-law/2012/04/24/gIQAyZcdfT_story.html?hpid=z1

They use the word "might" because Walmart hasn't been convicted yet.

>The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.

>Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”

>The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

>Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.

>Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. None of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders were disciplined. Indeed, its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart in 2008. Until this article, the allegations and Wal-Mart’s investigation had never been publicly disclosed.

>But The Times’s examination uncovered a prolonged struggle at the highest levels of Wal-Mart, a struggle that pitted the company’s much publicized commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards against its relentless pursuit of growth.

>Today, one in five Wal-Mart stores is in Mexico.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/business/at-wal-mart-in-mexico-a-bribe-inquiry-silenced.html 

It is my understanding that the FCPA is the only federal criminal statute that requires the imprisoning of the CEO for wilful violations.

A quick look at the lobbying efforts by WalMart would make it impossible to prosecute them:
http://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/sites/default/files/restoringbalance_fcpa.pdf

For example, redefining foreign officials would open the door to all the fixers that operate in Mexico. From the NY Times article:

>Gestores (pronounced hes-TORE-ehs) are a fixture in Mexico’s byzantine bureaucracies, and some are entirely legitimate. Ordinary citizens routinely pay gestores to stand in line for them at the driver’s license office. Companies hire them as quasi-lobbyists to get things done as painlessly as possible.

>But often gestores play starring roles in Mexico’s endless loop of public corruption scandals. They operate in the shadows, dangling payoffs to officials of every rank. It was this type of gestor that Wal-Mart de Mexico deployed, Mr. Cicero said.

>Mr. Cicero told Mr. Torres-Landa it was his job to recruit the gestores. He worked closely with them, sharing strategies on whom to bribe. He also approved Wal-Mart de Mexico’s payments to the gestores. Each payment covered the bribe and the gestor’s fee, typically 6 percent of the bribe.

>It was all carefully monitored through a system of secret codes known only to a handful of Wal-Mart de Mexico executives.

As it is now, gestores would count as "instrumentality" which would lead to a conviction. Redefining foreign official (page 24+ of the pdf) would eliminate this avenue of prosecution, essentially requiring videotapes of suitcases of cash as in Abscam.
Permalink Peter 
May 2nd, 2012 4:58pm
Why should the ultra rich have to follow any laws at all? They don't already. They are above the law. Let's drop the charade and stop pretending they are subject to law.

Then we will see things as they are and can proceed realistically with the next step rather than flailing about pretending things are different from how they are.
Permalink Idiot 
May 2nd, 2012 5:04pm
I was gonna say, when you make/have as much money as Walmart, the Government has to work really hard to make sure the laws apply to you the same as Mom & Pop Inc. down the street.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 2nd, 2012 5:17pm
I heard on the Radio, that in the 1%, there's two kinds of people.

One kind plays by the rules, and tries to make the world better.  The other kind tries to change the rules to gain even more money and power.

Guess which kind Romney is.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 2nd, 2012 5:18pm
My first suspicion is that WalMart will try to delay this until someone else gets elected. Like how Microsoft refused to negotiate with the DOJ during Clinton's administration, chosing to wait until Bush was sworn in, and Bush basically let MS off the hook.

My second suspicion is that any settlement will be similar to how WalMart managed to sucker Immigration (before it became ICE) into a consent decree that gives WalMart 4 weeks advance notice in writing of any raid that ICE intends to conduct to look for undocumented workers. Also, the consent decree prevents fines. That multi-million dollar contribution to the GOP and W campaigns worked wonders.
Permalink Peter 
May 2nd, 2012 6:07pm
Noblesse oblige - the aristocracy (wealthy) felt a level of obligation to the serfs (poor). Certainly, these days the ratio of greedy wealthy to kind wealthy is on the rise.
Permalink less is more 
May 2nd, 2012 6:29pm
What I understood it is basically Mexican politicians that induced this on Wall Market in Mexico.

Carrefour refused to pay similar amounts and decided to leave the Mexican market, but for a business that is a tough choice.

Happened to Philips Medical equipment in Poland.

But look how the game is played in Russia, with Shell and the oil fields of Sachalin a few years ago for example: the main difference is that in Russia they played it slightly more sophisticated in their legal construction.
Permalink Attila 
May 2nd, 2012 6:53pm
Why do you think Wal-Martians should be treated the same as normal humans?
Permalink Fan boy 
May 2nd, 2012 7:18pm
I imagine Mr Murdoch's media megaphones will support this bill - there's a big chance News will be done for bribery in the UK and Roop's now a US citizen.
Permalink trollop 
May 2nd, 2012 8:13pm
>The Labor Department on Tuesday ordered Wal-Mart to pay $4.8 million in back wages and damages to thousands of employees who were denied overtime charges, the latest in a string of embarrassments for the company over its business practices.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/wal-mart-to-pay-48-million-in-back-wages/2012/05/01/gIQAQqK5uT_story.html
Permalink Peter 
May 3rd, 2012 12:56am
@Philips in Poland

It was Philips employees carting suitcases of money around, not government asking them for bribes. Corruption in selling stuff to hospitals in Poland is rampant, and driven by greedy salesmen pushing to meet their sales targets.

http://www.rai-see.org/news/world/1467-philips-on-trial-for-bribery-in-poland.html

http://www.euronews.com/2011/05/18/philips-corruption-trial-due-in-poland/
Permalink Quant 
May 3rd, 2012 5:27am
> It was Philips employees carting suitcases of money around, not government asking them for bribes

State owned hospital managers expecting bribes.

What is the difference?

In this situation, as a company you can either stop trying to sell, or play the game.

The crime is committed in Poland, so it should be tried there, but other countries do it for Poland, as a service helping them to get rid of the corruption, but in fact I think it is none of their business.
Permalink Attila 
May 3rd, 2012 5:58am
"State owned hospital managers expecting bribes."

They were trained to expect them by salesmen (from Philips and other companies).

"The crime is committed in Poland, so it should be tried there,"

It is: "Twenty three Poles, including two former employees of Philips Electronics, are reportedly to stand trial in Poland in July".
Permalink Quant 
May 3rd, 2012 6:06am
I imagine that Philips is explaining its behaviour to Dutch public as "these greedy Poles forced to do it!", but the reality is that these foreign companies brought it upon themselves, by setting ludicrous sales targets and then turning a blind eye to "aggressive" sales tactics used to meet these goals. I've read a lot about it.
Permalink Quant 
May 3rd, 2012 6:07am
Well, it varies depending on the locale. Some cultures promote bribery.

I've always heard when driving in Mexico, you're supposed to keep a $20 folded behind your license just in case you get pulled over.

At any rate, the people it hurts are the people trying to do business legitimately in Mexico. That is Mexico's problem. If they had even a little desire to clean up the rampant bribery that exists in their culture it would be different. As it is today, it seems like my country is spending money to police a problem in another country... Another country who doesn't care in the slightest that bribery is just par for its course.

Outrage at how the big guys get away with everything notwithstanding, there's no reason for USians to give a damn about Walmart bribing Mexicans.
Permalink JoC 
May 3rd, 2012 12:06pm
FCPA should probably be 'adjusted'.

It's a good thing where there is a mutual interest between countries to both prevent corruption/bribery.

It would be a baseless assumption that all countries share that mutual interest though.

Why would you hobble your people in competing in a different market by imposing rules that market does not play by? What do you gain?
Permalink JoC 
May 3rd, 2012 12:14pm
I don't think that's a "baseless assumption".  If you can't trust in trading with others, then trade ceases.

If one group starts demanding and accepting bribes, now you have another factor in trade.  No longer do you have a "level playing field".  You are strongly encouraging a "race to the bottom", where everyone gives and accepts bribes, and the biggest vendor (and briber) can afford to demand special priveleges for their trade -- thus locking out lesser vendors, and leading to monopoly, thus collapsing the Free-Market.

On the other hand, maintaining bribe-free trade means all vendors and consumers are operating on a "level playing field", where many vendors can survive, and competition results in more products, better products, and eventually lower prices.

The one situation gives you a monopoly over a shrinking pie.  The situation without bribes means you're one of several producers, sharing an increasing pie.  Which is to everyone's benefit.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 3rd, 2012 12:55pm
What I mean is that in Mexico, bribes are a way of life. Sure, that's unfair and bad for business.

But the Mexican government does not care. Everyone takes bribes. It's 'always been that way' and they don't do anything at all to change that.

Since almost every official profits from it, there is zero desire to stem bribery.

It's a totally different system of ethics. They don't see it as at all unethical or bad to accept or demand a bribe.

But it isn't up to the U.S. to decide how Mexico runs itself. If they didn't want the bribery, they'd enforce their own laws against it internally, wouldn't they?

Why should I care if Walmart chooses to spend its money that way? I have no interest in controlling the prevailing ideology of a foreign government. It's not our country, and it isn't our duty to promote our idea of fairness there. Why should my tax dollars be spent to that end?
Permalink JoC 
May 3rd, 2012 2:13pm
Because Walmart operates in the United States, is based in the United States, and is subject to United States laws, not Mexican.

What, you'd give a corporation a free pass to behave as badly as they want to, wherever they want to, just because "that's the local arrangement"?

I'll note it IS against Mexican laws to carry on this way, even as lots of people do so.  You should care.  Because today it's Walmart, tomorrow it's Exxon/Mobile, the next day it's GM and Ford and IBM.

In general, I'm very suspicious of "slippery slope" arguments.  But corruption and bribery is so very tempting, as the easiest short-term solution to any problem.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 3rd, 2012 2:20pm
Why should you care?  Because one of the reasons Bin Laden gave for his opposition to the US was the behavior of US Oil Companies in Saudi Arabia.

We're involved in global commerce here.  One large bad operator can have enormous impact down the road.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 3rd, 2012 2:21pm
> I imagine that Philips is explaining its behaviour to Dutch public as "these greedy Poles forced to do it!"

I don't think Philips was eager to communicate about this to the Dutch public, but the Dutch Justice department managed to prove that high Dutch managers knew about this practice, and they provided that evidence to Poland.

The bribing practice however existed before Philips entered that game.
Permalink Attila 
May 3rd, 2012 3:26pm
In the medical sector all suppliers are always as close to bribery as they can get away with.

That is what doctors expect: they want their free holiday trips and presents and bonuses.
Permalink Attila 
May 3rd, 2012 3:29pm
I guess it'd be one thing if they were running child labor sweatshops. Seems to me they are just doing what people do to do business there. They weren't bribing their way to some sort of special legal circumstance or something... they were just procuring construction permits. They could have probably done it without bribery, but it would've taken far longer. So what's the big deal?

Are you positive bribery is illegal in Mexico? I really don't know. It sure doesn't seem illegal from everything I've heard about it.

I don't even like walmart, but I like my tax dollars being spent on promoting my local ideology abroad even less.
Permalink JoC 
May 3rd, 2012 3:51pm

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