House Dems want to talk to ex-Wal-Mart lawyer about Mexico

Prominent House Democrats want to interview a former senior attorney for Wal-Mart in the wake of the company’s bribery scandal in Mexico.

In a letter sent Thursday to Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked that Duke allow the former general counsel of Wal-Mart International, Maritza Munich, to speak to their staff about alleged bribes that Wal-Mart made to government officials in Mexico.

The lawmakers also ask that the company schedule a briefing with their staff to discuss the bribery allegations.

The lawmakers have reviewed hundreds of Wal-Mart’s internal documents, which they said confirm a report in The New York Times detailing bribery allegations against the company.

The two lawmakers said Munich had told them she wanted to talk to Wal-Mart before she spoke to their staff.

“We respectfully request that you authorize Ms. Munich to cooperate with our investigation and speak with our staffs,” Cummings and Waxman wrote in the letter.

The lawmakers said internal documents raise new questions about Wal-Mart’s actions in Mexico. They said the documents indicate Munich, after reviewing a draft report of Wal-Mart’s actions in Mexico, recommended a follow-up probe extending beyond transactions in the initial report.

Munich resigned shortly after the recommendation, and a few months later Wal-Mart decided to close the investigation, according to Cummings and Waxman.

The Times last month reported that Wal-Mart’s actions in Mexico could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which bans bribing foreign government officials.

Cummings and Waxman consequently opened an investigation into the company that has since expanded to trade groups in Washington.

Wal-Mart’s Mexican subsidiary has reportedly fallen under investigation by the Justice Department. The company is alleged to have paid more than $24 million in bribes to win construction permits in Mexico.

UPDATE:

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman on Friday said the company is working to schedule another briefing with the lawmakers. 

“As we have said from the beginning, we continue to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation, and as appropriate, will assist members of Congress and their staffs in understanding our efforts to address FCPA issues," said Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. "An initial briefing has already been scheduled with the staffs of Representatives Cummings and Waxman. We are currently working to schedule an additional briefing session. We understand their interest in this issue and will continue to work with them to provide whatever appropriate information we can consistent with the ongoing investigation."