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Checking In On Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart

In its recent 3Q FY2017 earnings call presentation Wal-Mart disclosed $29 million in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and compliance related expenses ($24 million for ongoing investigations and inquiries and $5 million for global compliance program and organizational enhancements). The Q3 expenses of $29 million are slightly higher than the Q2 expenses of $28 million.

Doing the math, Wal-Mart’s 3Q FCPA and compliance-related costs is approximately $465,000 per working day.

Over the past approximate 4.5 years, I have tracked Wal-Mart’s quarterly disclosed pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.

While some pundits have ridiculed me for doing so, it quickly caught on as the popular thing to do.

And with good reason because, as has been noted in prior posts and in the article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples,” settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from corporate FCPA scrutiny.

Pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses are typically the largest (in many cases to a degree of 3, 5, 10 or higher than settlement amounts) financial hit to a company under FCPA scrutiny.

Over the past thirteen quarters, Wal-Mart’s pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses have been approximately $465,000, $445,000, $396,000, $520,000, $470,000, $470,000, $516,000, $563,000, $640,000, $662,000, $855,000, $1.1 million and $1.3 million per working day.

In the aggregate, Wal-Mart’s disclosed pre-enforcement professional fees and expenses are as follows.

FY 2013 = $157 million.

FY 2014 = $282 million.

FY 2015  = $173 million.

FY 2016 = $126 million.

FY 2017 (1Q, 2Q, 3Q) = $82 million.

Late last week Wal-Mart made its required quarterly filing. Relevant to the company’s ongoing FCPA scrutiny the filing stated:

FCPA Investigation and Related Matters

The Audit Committee (the “Audit Committee”) of the Board of Directors of the Company, which is composed solely of independent directors, has been conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with foreign subsidiaries, including Wal-Mart de México, S.A.B. de C.V. (“Walmex”), and whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled by the Company. The Audit Committee and the Company have engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who are assisting in the on-going investigation of these matters.

The Company has also been conducting a voluntary global review of its policies, practices and internal controls for anti-corruption compliance. The Company is engaged in strengthening its global anti-corruption compliance program through appropriate remedial anti-corruption measures. In November 2011, the Company voluntarily disclosed that investigative activity to the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). Since the implementation of the global review and the enhanced anti-corruption compliance program, the Audit Committee and the Company have identified or been made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA. When such allegations have been reported or identified, the Audit Committee and the Company, together with their third party advisors, have conducted inquiries and when warranted based on those inquiries, opened investigations. Inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations were commenced in a number of foreign markets where the Company operates, including, but not limited to, Brazil, China and India.

As previously disclosed, the Company is under investigation by the DOJ and the SEC regarding possible violations of the FCPA. The Company has been cooperating with the agencies and discussions have begun with them regarding the resolution of these matters. As these discussions are preliminary, the Company cannot currently predict the timing, the outcome or the impact of a possible resolution of these matters.

A number of federal and local government agencies in Mexico have also initiated investigations of these matters. Walmex is cooperating with the Mexican governmental agencies conducting these investigations. Furthermore, lawsuits relating to the matters under investigation have been filed by several of the Company’s shareholders against it, certain of its current directors, certain of its former directors, certain of its current and former officers and certain of Walmex’s current and former officers.

The Company could be exposed to a variety of negative consequences as a result of the matters noted above. There could be one or more enforcement actions 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 and the shareholder lawsuits referenced above may result in judgments against the Company and its current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. The Company expects that there will be on-going media and governmental interest, including additional news articles from media publications on these matters, which could impact the perception among certain audiences of the Company’s role as a corporate citizen.

In addition, the Company has incurred and expects to continue to incur costs in responding to requests for information or subpoenas seeking documents, testimony and other information in connection with the government investigations, in defending the shareholder lawsuits, and in conducting the review and investigations. These costs will be expensed as incurred. For the three and nine months ended October 31, 2016 and 2015 , the Company incurred the following third-party expenses in connection with the FCPA investigation and related matters:

WMTExpenses

 

 

 

 

While the Company believes that it is probable that it will incur a loss from these matters, given the on-going nature and complexity of the review, inquiries and investigations, the Company cannot yet reasonably estimate a loss or range of loss that may arise from the conclusion of these matters. Although the Company does not presently believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on its business, given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, the Company can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to its business in the future.

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