Faith investors respond to Walmart Mexico bribery reports

Statement from Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of faith-based and responsible investors that have been engaging with US retail giant Walmart for years, have issued a statement in response to the Mexican bribery allegations about the company.

The ICCR’s lead engager with the company says the matter is “deeply disturbing on so many levels”.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the company had silenced an internal probe into hundreds of suspect payments to help it expand its Mexican business. Bloomberg News has reported that the company is the subject of a US Justice Department criminal investigation into allegations of bribery.

The scandal, as well as impacting the company’s share price, has seen former Walmart Mexico head Eduardo Castro-Wright depart the board of insurer MetLife to focus on the issue. The company has since said it has appointed a global anti-corruption watchdog.

“We have a tremendous investment in this company in terms of our time, expertise and yes, capital, and find these allegations deeply disturbing on so many levels,” said Sr. Barbara Aires of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, New Jersey, who has led the Walmart engagement for over 20 years.“Should these reports be confirmed, we deem this a significant breach of trust and a loss of management credibility.”

The investor statement went on: “The unparalleled growth of Walmart as an aggressive and competitive global retailer raises serious concerns that the company’s strategic vision to achieve success in the marketplace comes without an ethical standard of measurement on which to base decisions.”

“We hope that in its rush to establish a dominant market position Walmart haven’t placed its commitments to ethics, oversight and transparency in jeopardy,” added David Schilling, ICCR’s Program Director for Human Rights and Resources.

The ICCR members also stressed in the statement that they view corporate support of the key US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as critical – and that they oppose the US Chamber of Commerce’s attempts to weaken it.

“We expect Walmart to publicly endorse FCPA and to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice’s investigation,” added Margaret Weber of the Basilian Fathers of Toronto. Link to ICCR Statement