Wal-Mart news, the shadow regulatory state, save the date, checking in on Wynn-Okada, and there’s an app for that.
Yesterday Wal-Mart released its first quarter financial results and stated as follows in its SEC filing.
The Audit Committee of the Company’s Board of Directors (the “Audit Committee”), which is composed solely of independent directors, is conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “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 is also conducting a voluntary global review of its policies, practices and internal controls for FCPA compliance. The Company is engaged in strengthening its global anti-corruption compliance programs 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 SEC.
The Company has been informed by the DOJ and the SEC that it is also the subject of their respective investigations into possible violations of the FCPA. The Company is cooperating with the investigations by the DOJ and the SEC. A number of federal and local government agencies in Mexico have also recently 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 recently been filed by several of the Company’s shareholders against it, 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 ongoing government investigations, and such actions, if brought, may result in judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions, cease and desist orders or other relief, criminal convictions and/or penalties. The shareholder lawsuits may result in judgments against the Company and its current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. The Company cannot predict accurately at this time the outcome or impact of the government investigations, the shareholder lawsuits, or its own internal investigation and review. In addition, the Company expects 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 its internal investigation and review, and it cannot predict at this time the ultimate amount of all such costs. These matters may require the involvement of certain members of the Company’s senior management that could impinge on the time they have available to devote to other matters relating to the business. The Company may also see ongoing media and governmental interest in these matters that could impact the perception among certain audiences of its role as a corporate citizen.
The Company is in the early stages of assessing and responding to the governmental investigations, the shareholder lawsuits, and its internal investigation and review are on-going. 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.
Wal-Mart stock closed yesterday at $61.68. On Friday April 20th (the day before the New York Times article – see here for the prior post) Wal-Mart stock closed at $62.45. See here for a recent Forbes column titled “Mexican Bribery Gave Me A Chance To Make Money In Wal-Mart” in which the contributor states as follows. “My 30 years of experience in the markets has repeatedly shown to me that whenever a company is accused of violations of FCPA, headlines are always scary, but in the end, the downdraft in the stock invariably becomes a buying opportunity.”
In other Wal-Mart news, as highlighted in this prior post, Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member, House Committee on Energy and Commerce have taken a keen interest in Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure. Yesterday, the Congressmen sent this letter to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Dukes in which they state, among other things, that “we have obtained hundreds of internal documents relating to the Wal-Mart bribery allegations.”
The Shadow Regulatory State
In this previous post, I called for the abolition of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements in the FCPA context. I noted how use of NPAs and DPAs to resolve alleged corporate criminal liability in the FCPA context present two distinct, yet equally problematic public policy issues and highlighted other critiques of NPAs and DPAs as well.
This recent report titled “The Shadow Regulatory State: The Rise of Deferred Prosecution Agreements” by James Copland (Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research) caught my eye. Copland states as follows.
“… [P]rosecutors’ virtually unchecked powers under DPAs and NPAs threaten our constitutional framework. To be sure, prosecutors are acting upon duly enacted laws, but federal criminal provisions are often vague or ambiguous, and the fact that prosecutors and large corporations alike feel obliged to reach agreement, rather than follow an orderly regulatory process and litigate disagreements in court, denies the judiciary an opportunity to clarify the boundaries of such laws. Instead, the laws come to mean what the prosecutors say they mean—and companies do what the prosecutors say they must. Federal prosecutors are thus assuming the role of judge (interpreting the law) and of legislature (setting broad policy choices about industry conduct), substantially eroding the separation of powers. That such discretion is often delegated to private contractors with sweeping powers—namely, corporate monitors—makes the denial of justice even graver.”
Save the Date
I am pleased to be participating in this June 5th program sponsored by The American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section and the ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education in cooperation with Dorsey & Whitney & LLP, and Pepper Hamilton, LLP. Titled “The New Era of FCPA Enforcement and the Collapse of the Africa Sting Cases: Time to Reevaluate?” the program will “evaluate the impact of Africa Sting cases in view of key New Era trends, calls for FCPA reform, and a reevaluation of the prosecution standards utilized by the DOJ and the SEC in enforcing statutes.” Panelists include DOJ, SEC, and OECD representatives, Stanley Sporkin and noted FCPA practitioners including Greg Andres (former DOJ who testified on behalf of the DOJ at the November 2010 Senate and June 2011 House FCPA hearings).
Here is an update from Vegas Inc.
There’s An App For That
Click 4 Compliance recently launched “C4C Mobile Compliance Officer App” (see here). In a release (here) the company says the free mobile app “places practical anti-corruption compliance tips (including the FCPA and UK Bribery Act) in the hands of your company’s workforce and partners.”
It’s an FCPA world – a good weekend to all.