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Walmart to pay $282 mn to settle US bribery probes: agency

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New York (AFP)

International retail giant Walmart agreed to pay $282 million to settle charges over potentially illegal payments to officials in Brazil, China, India and Mexico, the US Securities and Exchange Commission said Thursday.

The SEC said the company failed to operate an effective anti-corruption program to comply with US law for more than a decade while it pursued international growth, and "repeatedly failed to take red flags seriously."

Walmart agreed to pay $144 million to settle the SEC investigation into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and $138 million to settle a parallel criminal probe by the Justice Department, the SEC said in a news release.

"Walmart valued international growth and cost-cutting over compliance," said Charles Cain, chief of the SEC enforcement division on FCPA.

"The company could have avoided many of these problems, but instead Walmart repeatedly failed to take red flags seriously and delayed the implementation of appropriate internal accounting controls."

The SEC said the company several times planned to implement the necessary programs and training, but then put those plans on hold even amid corruption allegations.

A Walmart spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a quarterly report filed with the SEC earlier this month, Walmart said it undertook a "voluntary global review" of anti-corruption programs, notifying the SEC and DOJ of the probe in November 2011.

Additional potential violations surfaced after that point, spurring probes in the four countries and others. The company said it cooperated with subsequent reviews by the US authorities.

The SEC said it received assistance from regulators and law enforcement in Brazil, India and Mexico.

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