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FCPA Blog Daily News

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Wednesday
Mar262014

Wal-Mart says FCPA-related spending for two years hit $439 million 

Wal-Mart's expenses for FCPA investigations and its global compliance program were $282 million for the past fiscal year and $157 million for the year before.

The company said in an SEC filing it expects more costs for FCPA investigations, and for responding to subpoenas and defending existing and new shareholder lawsuits.

The FCPA investigations started in Mexico in 2011, Wal-Mart said, and have spread to "a number of foreign markets in which [Wal-Mart and subsidiaries] operate, including but not limited to Brazil, China and India."

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Here are FCPA disclosures from a few sections of Wal-Mart Stores' Form 10-K filed with the SEC on March 21:

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The Audit Committee of our Board of Directors, which is composed solely of independent directors, is conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with certain of our foreign subsidiaries, including Wal-Mart de México, S.A.B. de C.V., or Walmex, and whether we appropriately handled prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct.

We are also conducting a voluntary global review of our policies, practices and internal controls for FCPA compliance and strengthening our global anti-corruption compliance programs. Since the implementation of the global review and enhanced anti-corruption compliance programs, the Audit Committee and we have identified or been made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA. Inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations have been commenced in a number of foreign markets in which we operate,including, but not limited to, Brazil, China and India.

In November 2011, we voluntarily disclosed our investigative activity to the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ") and the SEC, and we have been informed by the DOJ and the SEC that we are the subject of their respective investigations into possible violations of the FCPA. A number of federal and local government agencies in Mexico have also initiated investigations of these matters. Furthermore, lawsuits relating to the matters under investigation have been filed by several of our shareholders against us, certain of our current and former directors and officers and certain of Walmex's current and former officers.

We could be exposed to a variety of negative consequences as a result of these matters. One or more enforcement actions could be instituted in respect of the matters that are the subject of some or all of the on-going government investigations, and such actions, if brought, may result in judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions, cease and desist orders, debarment or other relief, criminal convictions and/or penalties. The existing and any additional shareholder lawsuits may result in judgments against us and our current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. We cannot predict at this time the outcome or impact of the government investigations, the shareholder lawsuits, or our own internal investigations and review.

Moreover, we expect to continue to incur costs (incremental to the $282 million of costs incurred in fiscal 2014) in conducting our on-going review and investigations and in responding to requests for information or subpoenas seeking documents, testimony and other information in connection with the government investigations and in defending the existing and any additional shareholder lawsuits and any governmental proceedings that are instituted against us or any of our current or former officers.

These matters may require the involvement of certain members of our senior management that could impinge on the time they have available to devote to other matters relating to our business. We also expect that there will be ongoing media and governmental interest, including additional news articles from media publications on these matters that could impact the perception of our role as a corporate citizen among certain audiences. Our process of assessing and responding to the governmental investigations and the shareholder lawsuits continues. While we believe that it is probable that we will incur a loss from these matters, given the on-going nature and complexity of the review, inquiries and investigations, we cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from these matters.

Although we do not presently believe that these matters will have a material adverse affect on our business, given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, we can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to our business in the future.

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Expenses incurred for the FCPA inquiries and investigations, as well as our global compliance program and related organizational enhancements, were $282 million and $157 million for fiscal 2014 and 2013, respectively.

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The Company is a defendant in several lawsuits in which the complaints closely track the allegations set forth in a news story that appeared in The New York Times (the "Times") on April 21, 2012. One of these is a securities lawsuit that was filed on May 7, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, and subsequently transferred to the Western District of Arkansas, in which the plaintiff alleges various violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the "FCPA") beginning in 2005, and asserts violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, relating to certain prior disclosures of the Company.

The plaintiff seeks to represent a class of shareholders who purchased or acquired stock of the Company between December 8, 2011, and April 20, 2012, and seeks damages and other relief based on allegations that the defendants' conduct affected the value of such stock. In addition, a number of derivative complaints have been filed in Delaware and Arkansas, also tracking the allegations of the Times story, and naming various current and former officers and directors as additional defendants.

The plaintiffs in the derivative suits (in which the Company is a nominal defendant) allege, among other things, that the defendants who are or were directors or officers of the Company breached their fiduciary duties in connection with oversight of FCPA compliance. Most, but not all, of the derivative suits have been combined into two consolidated proceedings, one of which is currently pending in the Western District of Arkansas and the other in the Delaware Court of Chancery.

Management does not believe any possible loss or the range of any possible loss that may be incurred in connection with these proceedings will be material to the Company's financial condition or results of operations.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.