Two congressmen investigating the Walmart bribery scandal announced on Wednesday that they will also begin probing Walmart's lobbying against the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the federal law that the retail giant allegedly broke by bribing Mexican officials to fuel its rapid-fire growth in that country.
Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent letters to Thomas Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Gregg Steinhafel, chairman of the board of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (and CEO of Target). Both trade groups worked with Walmart in lobbying to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, The Huffington Post and the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
At that same time, Walmart was busily violating the act by bribing Mexican officials, the New York Times alleged in a story published Saturday.
"We are concerned about the role that Wal-Mart officials may have played in the efforts to modify the FCPA," Waxman and Cummings wrote in their letter to Steinhafel. "It would appear to be a conflict of interest for Wal-Mart officials to advise on ways to weaken the FCPA at a time when the leadership of the company was apparently aware of corporate conduct that may have violated the law."
One such official is Thomas Hyde, a former Walmart executive vice president who served on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform from 2003 to 2010, according to the Washington Post. During that time, the institute pushed to amend the anti-bribery law by exempting companies like Walmart that run internal compliance programs. Hyde was also one of the executives who supervised and ultimately helped silence Walmart's internal investigation in order to keep news of the alleged bribery from leaking, according to the New York Times.
David Tovar, vice president for corporate communications at Walmart, told HuffPost, "Walmart has never lobbied on FCPA. Simply because Walmart is a member of an organization does not mean we agree with every position they take."
To help their investigation, Reps. Cummings and Waxman are requesting lists of "members and senior officials who have worked on issues related to the FCPA and have been or currently are affiliated with Wal-Mart or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates over the past ten years" at both the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Chamber of Commerce. They are also requesting copies of all the officials' internal and external communications relating to the law.
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