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Hightower writes: "Wal-mart has long boasted of its 'Always Low Prices,' but now it has confirmed that it also has 'Always low morals.'"

Texas' progressive political curmudgeon, Jim Hightower. (photo: JimHightower.com)
Texas' progressive political curmudgeon, Jim Hightower. (photo: JimHightower.com)



Wal-mart: The Stench of Bentonville Spreads to Mexico - and Back

By Jim Hightower, Common Dreams

06 May 12

 

al-mart has long boasted of its "Always Low Prices," but now it has confirmed that it also has "Always low morals."

The bottom line has always been THE line for Wal-mart executives, and sinking to the ethical bottom to enhance that line has not only been tolerated, but legitimized as a proven path to executive promotion and riches. Squeezing suppliers, crushing competitors, exploiting employees, using enslaved workers in foreign factories and resorting to other brutish tactics to pound out another dollar in profit are central components of Wal-mart's management ethos and business plan.

Now, we can add bribery to the list of accepted practices - so accepted that even getting caught at it doesn't mean you get fired.

Walmart de Mexico is now the largest retailer and employer in that country, an exalted status that it gained the old-fashioned way: by doling out millions of dollars in corporate bribes. With sluggish sales and a tarnished brand in the U.S., the retailing giant has been pushing hard to expand internationally, and in amazingly short time, its Mexican branch became huge, with one out of five Walmart stores presently located there.

All it took, we now learn from an excellent investigative report by The New York Times, was the systematic spreading of muchos, muchos pesos to government officials across the country to gain needed permits quickly, dodge environmental restrictions and generally have the company's path cleared for market domination.

Not only is this wrong, it is seriously criminal - a blatant violation of our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. And, lest you think the corruption was the work of some lower-level manager gone rogue, the knowledge of this wholesale bribery scheme goes all the way to the top, including the current and one former CEO.

David Tovar, a Wal-mart PR agent, was rushed out as the scandal was gaining media coverage to assert, disingenuously, "We are committed to getting to the bottom of this matter." Too late, sir.

Wal-mart already reached bottom.

Apparently, though, a skunk doesn't smell its own stink - or at least it's not offended by it.

Thus Wal-mart honchos are addressing the nauseating stench of this still-evolving bribery scandal as though it's coming from somewhere else.

"We are deeply concerned by these allegations," declared PR man Tovar, "and are working aggressively to determine what happened."

Well, gosh, you could just walk aggressively over to the executive suite and ask CEO Mike Duke, board member Lee Scott and vice chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright. All three have first-hand knowledge of what happened, for they were butt-deep in it. You see, while Wal-mart's massive bribery payments took place in Mexico, the corruption emanated from the very top of corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

It stems directly from Wal-mart's ruling ethic of grabbing market share and profits at all costs, pressuring managers to achieve "very aggressive growth goals" by doing "whatever was necessary." A decade ago, when Castro-Wright became head of Wal-Mart operations in Mexico, he decided that "necessary" included unbridled bribery. As early as 2005, this was known by the corporate chieftains in Bentonville, including then-CEO Scott. Also, Duke, who oversaw all international divisions at the time, was told in 2005 about corrupt payouts, which eventually totaled some $24 million.

So, did Scott and Duke rebuke the perpetrator? No. Instead, Scott rebuked those who'd brought the illegalities to his attention, chiding them for being too aggressive.

Fearing that exposure could hurt Wal-mart's stock price, he killed the internal investigation by turning it over to - guess who? - Castro-Wright. Yes, the very same man pushing the bribery scheme! The bribes continued, and in 2008, Castro-Wright was promoted to vice chairman of the corporation. Scott has since retired with a golden pension and a multimillion-dollar fortune, and Duke was elevated to CEO, now drawing $18 million in pay.

It's all part of Wal-mart's business model - and it's stinkier than a whole den of skunks could possibly be.

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+33 # jlohman 2012-05-06 09:54
Walmart's only mistake was giving the political bribes in Mexico. They are legal in the US.
 
 
+1 # John Locke 2012-05-06 15:52
They are legal there also...
 
 
+24 # tforre 2012-05-06 10:46
I almost always disagree with Jim Hightower however I have an insiders knowledge of how Wal Mart operates and I have to agree with Jim on 100 percent of his article on Wal Mart. They are the dirtiest company anyone could ever imagine. They are corrupt and many of their managers abuse workers in the stores and a lot of these abusive managers get promotions seemingly more with the more abuse. The company has a lot of heartless characters running their stores and Wal Mart home office seems to prefer and promote these things. They are nothing but corrupt bullies. The profit sharing is an example. The company cut off giving profit sharing about 2 or 3 yrs ago and while they don't give anymore to employees, they can still take away from what they already have. This should be illegal. This is part of the employees retirement along with 401 k's. They do a lot to hurt their workers and are always schemming to find more ways for the company to profit while the employees suffer. The company is despicable.
 
 
+11 # jwb110 2012-05-06 11:02
The really crummy thing is that they were not muchos, muchos pesos. They were many, many US Dollars that paid those bribes.
I have relatives in Mexico City. Many who suffered loss of businesses when a new President was elected and the money begin to change hands. It could happen to WalMart no matter how muchos Dollars they spend.
The ruling class of Mexico are a bunch of dogs to lay down with. WalMart is gonna get up with fleas or las pulgas ass they say in Mexico.
 
 
+8 # bsager892 2012-05-06 13:11
WalMart is corporation corruption at it's worst. They purposely go into a neighborhood to put all the Ma and Pa's out of business. They did it here and now are doing it in other countries, not only Mexico. My husband and I are old enough to remember Papa Walton, and we think he is spinning in his grave.
 
 
+11 # John Locke 2012-05-06 15:54
It's not only Wall Mart, this is the American corporate system at work...this isn't new, they have been doing it forever
 
 
-3 # carolsj 2012-05-06 15:42
According to corporate law, any corporation's only requirement is to make money. If you want them to be honest and considerate, that must somehow be included in the law. Such transgressions should cause them to be broken up. If a corp wants to do good, they file as a non-profit.
 
 
+2 # X Dane 2012-05-07 01:32
I read another article that show how Wall Mart is squeezing the blood out of the workers that clean their shrimps in Thailand.
They keep cutting their pay, which in essence makes them slaves of Wall Mart for they owe for their lodgings.

Wall Mart is a blood sucking outfit, which is why I will NEVER set foot in their stores. They are evil.
 

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