(CNNMoney) Wal-Mart says it has been conducting an “extensive investigation” since 2011 into its compliance with a federal law that prohibits American companies from bribing foreign officials. The statement came in response to a New York Times article published online Saturday alleging that top executives in Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) Mexican division attempted to conceal a widespread bribery scheme from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
The Times story alleges that executives at Wal-Mart headquarters — including former CEO H. Lee Scott — were more concerned with damage control from the matter than with correcting the situation. The allegations date back to 2005, when a former Wal-Mart de Mexico executive supposedly e-mailed one of Wal-Mart’s senior lawyers, spelling out how the company had paid more than $24 million in bribes to secure construction permits throughout Mexico.
The Times said its investigation included 15 hours of interviews with former Wal-Mart executive Sergio Cicero Zapata, who said he had personally facilitated many of the alleged payoffs, which bought zoning approvals and cleared bureaucratic hurdles.
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