Another year, another eye-popping amount of money spent by Walmart on its long-running FCPA investigation—with no end in sight.
Walmart spent $99 million on FCPA matters last year, according to the annual report it published March 31: $80 million for the investigation itself, plus another $19 million spent on “enhancements to its global compliance program.”
The world’s largest company had already spent $738 million since it began reporting its FCPA expenses four years ago. Add the $99 million spent last year, and the grand total is now $837 million.
We don’t know when Walmart might actually settle this probe. Most compliance professionals know the story from an in-depth feature in the New York Times back in 2012, alleging widespread violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Mexico and executive-level cover-up. In truth, Walmart had disclosed its potential FCPA trouble to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2011. The company has been investigating and disclosing ever since.
The Justice Department reportedly had offered to settle the case last fall for $600 million, which Walmart declined. Much has changed since then, including the arrival of Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions has a public record of frowning on the deferred-prosecution agreements that would typically conclude a case like this. Of course, that was much easier for Sessions to say while was a senator. Now that he’s in the executive branch and has to decide between indicting a company (drastic) or declining to prosecute at all, his tune might be different. And his lieutenants overseeing the Fraud Section have tried to telegraph the message that they won’t be soft-pedaling FCPA enforcement.
One other item of note: since 2014 Walmart has published an annual Global Ethics & Compliance Report, offering various details on its compliance programs. We haven’t seen the 2017 report yet, but Walmart typically publishes the report in late April. I’ll keep you posted about when this year’s report surfaces (assuming it does).
As for that fabled settlement with the Justice Department, and what it might portend for companies trying to settle FCPA cases with the Trump Administration—well, who knows when it will arrive? All compliance officers can do for now is keep waiting for Walmart and the Justice Department to announce a conclusion to the most famous case in FCPA World.