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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Should the New York Times Investigate Wal-Mart or Carlos Slim?

The  New York Times’s Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle suggests that Wal-Mart violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The smoking gun: Seven years ago, Wal-Mart de Mexico hired two outside lawyers for $8.5 million to “facilitate” store permits. The lawyers were effective:  “Legal and bureaucratic obstacles melted away after payments were made to minor officials who could thwart Wal-Mart’s growth.” Wal-Mart executives, the  article charges, did not take appropriate action after an internal investigation.

No believer in free enterprise should excuse or make light of violations of laws by Wal-Mart or any other private company. We hope that Wal-Mart moves forcefully to put this business behind it.

In its anti-Wal-Mart fervor, the Times inflates the $8.5 million into an “orchestrated campaign of bribery to win market dominance” that erected Wal-Marts on “virtually every corner of the country.”  No mention of the possibility – if not  probability – that local officials could not pass up a once in a lifetime opportunity to extort Wal-Mart.  A Wal-Mart success story explained by its “everyday low prices”  does not fit the Times’ political agenda. Greasing the palms of local officials with a few dollars is a more convenient explanation.

A few blocks away from 620 Eighth Avenue, Carlos Slim, the Times’ second largest shareholder behind the Sulzbergers, oversees his sprawling Telmex and Latin American telecommunications empires from atop Rockefeller Center. Slim is a welcome guest at the most exclusive of Manhattan cocktail parties.  Wal-Mart’s hillbilly executives from Bentonville, Arkansas would simply not fit in.

go to forbes.com

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