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The Bribery Aisle
December 18, 2012 11:09 AM   Subscribe

How Wal-Mart Used Payoffs to Get Its Way in Mexico (slnyt)

The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs. Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.

Problem solved.
posted by elizardbits (36 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
*redraws map of globe, accidentally overlooks Bentonville*
posted by infini at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2012


Corrupt officials? In Mexico?!? Surely you jest, good sirs...
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:23 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Shitty business practices? At Wal-Mart?!? Surely you jest, &c.

It's amazing how they've managed to make every single portion of the retail process as unpleasant and distasteful as possible. From store construction to sourcing to pricing to customer service. It's impressive in a way.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:40 AM on December 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


So, because it's Mexico, we know they paid off the government for a variety of things. The real question is how much are they paying to the drug cartels not to have their shipments hi-jacked?
posted by doctor_negative at 11:41 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wal-Mart has responded to the article. See the right sidebar.

This article is part of a larger investigative report by the Times. Wal-Mart Abroad: How a retail giant fueled growth with bribes.
posted by zarq at 11:46 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's the Bentonville mafia at work again.
posted by Catblack at 11:47 AM on December 18, 2012


Good thing this sort of thing doesn't happen in the United States!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:48 AM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


well I never!

*monocle falls off face*

$52,000. low prices every day! even for bribes!
posted by ninjew at 12:05 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Time was, when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton was on Walmart's board. A naive person might call it conflict of interest.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:13 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, because it's Mexico, we know they paid off the government for a variety of things.

As the article points out though, these aren't just grease payments. Bribes are so entrenched in normal government practices in many places that it's pretty much impossible to operate a business without bribing government officials to perform basic tasks. Those sorts of bribes are specifically excluded from the FCPA and other laws around corrupt foreign business practices. Whereas in this case Walmart appears to have gone a step further and used bribes to skirt around laws and do clearly illegal and unethical things.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:15 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know it's no secret that Wal-Mart's practices are awful, but the pain of the people protesting this shouldn't be overlooked and brushed aside with a joke or a "well, of course, what did you expect?"

This is heartbreaking:
"As word of the blockade spread, bells rang from a chapel in Purificación, the neighborhood where Wal-Mart was building. It was the alarm used to summon neighbors in an emergency. Residents marched toward the blockade.

“We thought they were there to support us,” Ms. Ortega recalled. “No. They were there to attack us.” The crowd descended on the small band of protesters, pushing and yelling insults until the blockade was broken.

What Ms. Ortega did not know was that Wal-Mart had already bought the support of Purificación’s neighborhood leaders."


This is the systematic breakdown of community by corporations. It's terrifying.
posted by snowleopard at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2012 [31 favorites]


So I assume if they try to build one in Russia, we will see what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable onject
posted by griphus at 12:25 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


* faints *
posted by blue_beetle at 12:30 PM on December 18, 2012


snowleopard: I know it's no secret that Wal-Mart's practices are awful, but the pain of the people protesting this shouldn't be overlooked and brushed aside with a joke or a "well, of course, what did you expect?"

You are totally right. I didn't mean to minimize their pain, I am just not at all surprised to hear this, I guess.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:32 PM on December 18, 2012


Cynicism and irony are not universal tools, and you win no prized and gain no credit for having more than those around you. If anything, you're dinged on it, because cynicism is often just a too-cool-for-school front for do-nothing apathy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:39 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, because it's Mexico, we know they paid off the government for a variety of things.

How long have they been paying off government in the USA?

In one city nearby, they completely re-routed a residential road so Wal-Mart could go in in its place. In another, they made the previous main drag one-way, requiring that people going the other way would have to go past Wal-Mart- which otherwise would have been about a mile out of the way.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:45 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fines will just be the American government's way of getting their own baksheesh. See how seriously the government took HSBC's massive and brazen money laundering for drug trafficking that resulted in a measly $650,000 fine for cleaning around $16 billion.

Lesser non-incorporated humans go to jail for the crimes that corporations get speeding tickets for.
posted by srboisvert at 12:46 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know if I should have more or less confidence about banking with HSBC now.
posted by griphus at 12:48 PM on December 18, 2012


As the article points out though, these aren't just grease payments. Bribes are so entrenched in normal government practices in many places that it's pretty much impossible to operate a business without bribing government officials to perform basic tasks. Those sorts of bribes are specifically excluded from the FCPA and other laws around corrupt foreign business practices. Whereas in this case Walmart appears to have gone a step further and used bribes to skirt around laws and do clearly illegal and unethical things.

Which still doesn't explain satisfactorily why the US legal system can claim such jurisdiction over businesses that have little connection to the US government. Unless the US can get a cut, which makes Walmart look more like a victim. As far as I can tell, this isn't really the problem of the US. And the truly culpable parties are the ones that accepted bribes.

In one city nearby, they completely re-routed a residential road so Wal-Mart could go in in its place. In another, they made the previous main drag one-way, requiring that people going the other way would have to go past Wal-Mart- which otherwise would have been about a mile out of the way.

This is kind of the thing for me. The dealing that goes with these kinds of developments are often bribery and graft with the government's imprimatur.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:56 PM on December 18, 2012


Regardless of the facts of the story itself, that is about the worst goddamn page title I've seen this month. "How Wal-Mart Used Payoffs to Get Its Way in Mexico"? I'm going to guess by paying people off. I mean, it's bribery. Not a new concept, particularly for readers of the NYT.

The headline, "The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico," is just fine. Why did the web people feel the need to stupid it up?
posted by Etrigan at 1:05 PM on December 18, 2012


Previously.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:17 PM on December 18, 2012


I just dropped in to be pedantic about naming conventions.

"Walmart" or "Wal-Mart"?

Didn't I read that they'd dropped the hyphen and the capital "M"?

Yes I did. So why are elizardbits and the NY Times doing it wrong? I better get in there and straighten everybody out! To the keyboard!

Wait. BOTH elizardbits and the NY Times are doing it wrong?

WTF? I better pause a sec' and get my ducks in a row.

Oh.

Depends on the context:
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is the legal trade name of the corporation," the note says. "The name 'Walmart,' expressed as one word and without punctuation, is a trademark of the company and is used analogously to describe the company and its stores. Use the trade name when it is necessary to identify the legal entity, such as when reporting financial results, litigation or corporate governance."
Carry on.
posted by notyou at 1:49 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


how dare you question me
posted by elizardbits at 1:55 PM on December 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


You forgot a question mark on that sentence, didn't you?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:01 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is an amazing work of investigative reporting. The New York Times reporters went to the scene and dug up facts that both Wal-Mart and the Mexican government's investigations failed to find. They detailed how much was paid and who it went to, they used internal Wal-Mart documents and even found a computer disk in a shoe box at the state planning office that had the original map on it. If only more publications did this kind of detailed work.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:06 PM on December 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Gotta pay for the news kevin.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:16 PM on December 18, 2012


How hollow and bullshitty the corp response is. The only "ongoing" their investigation was doing before this story broke was the same kind of "ongoing" a mummy does in a tomb.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:22 PM on December 18, 2012


It's spelled either Walmart or Wal-Mart but it's pronounced "MallWart".
posted by islander at 4:38 PM on December 18, 2012


Bad, bad Wal-Mart!! It should be like all the other national and international retailers and do business in an ethical, all-American, clean fashion such that no question of shady business practices could ever come into play.

Hah.

Tomorrow's story will be about McDonald's; stay tuned.
posted by aryma at 4:42 PM on December 18, 2012


burnmp3s: " Bribes are so entrenched in normal government practices in many places that it's pretty much impossible to operate a business without bribing government officials to perform basic tasks."

I have to say, to my credit, that I've lived in Mexico City for nearly fourteen years, have run several businesses here, including the current one for the last five years, and I've never paid a single bribe. Although I don't drive, so that might have something to do with it, since most people seem to pay bribes to get out of traffic offenses, imaginary or not.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:44 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


The real crime is how awful and horrible the Walmarts in Mexico are.

Once again, Costco manages to do an awesome job, and Walmart scrapes by with the soul-sucking minimum. The Costcos in Mexico are the greatest thing ever. They even came out with slim fit dress shirts for their Mexican locations, which they don't sell in the Stateside ones I've been to. I couldn't find something worth buying at a Mexican Walmart if I wanted to, it's like they shipped all the North American discards to Mexico; then tripled the price.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 4:46 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Corruption in the government of Mexico is hardly a secret. Do a little research into NAFTA and the difficulties American corporations had trying to establish business in Mexico without paying bribes. IBM was one big one, but there were many, and I know of no reason to think things have changed. "Giving gifts" to officials in order to achieve access to helpful resources is just a part of everyday life; is that news to anyone, really?
posted by aryma at 4:58 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Mexico we spell it Wal-Mart but we call them el Gualmart.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:15 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Corruption in the government of Mexico is hardly a secret. Do a little research into NAFTA and the difficulties American corporations had trying to establish business in Mexico without paying bribes. IBM was one big one, but there were many, and I know of no reason to think things have changed. "Giving gifts" to officials in order to achieve access to helpful resources is just a part of everyday life; is that news to anyone, really?

In America they are called campaign contributions. Mexico just needs to learn some Democracy.
posted by srboisvert at 9:26 AM on December 19, 2012


@Omon Ra i think you should start calling them something worse. Or is that something worse?
posted by maiamaia at 3:16 PM on December 19, 2012


I was really shocked by the quality of the artefacts they destroyed, you wouldn't be allowed to destroy the outline of a wrecked wall half that age in the UK.
posted by maiamaia at 3:17 PM on December 19, 2012


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