Archive for the ‘Walmart’ tag
Dan Froomkin reports:
Two Democratic congressmen are investigating whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s tenacious attack on a key anti-bribery statute has less to do with high-minded economic principles and more to do with the fact that nearly one in four board members of the Chamber’s “legal reform” arm represents a company that has been caught up in a bribery investigation itself.
Top Walmart executives sit on the board of the Chamber’s well-funded Institute for Legal Reform — a connection that became considerably more newsworthy after The New York Times reported last month that a vast bribery inquiry involving Walmart’s Mexico subsidiary had been hushed up by top executives in the company’s Arkansas headquarters.
The Institute for Legal Reform has been leading a powerful and unprecedented lobbying campaign to persuade Congress to rewrite key provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 35-year-old statute that criminalizes bribes to foreign officials, on the grounds that prosecutors have been enforcing it too aggressively.
In a letter (PDF) to the Chamber released Tuesday, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — the ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively — describe how committee staff looked through the institute’s tax filings and found that 14 of the group’s 55 board members between 2007 and 2010 “were affiliated with companies that were reportedly under investigation for violations or had settled allegations that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
Among those companies: Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
That 14-out-of-55 figure may even be an understatement, the lawmakers write, as privately held companies aren’t required to report potential violations or investigations. For instance, Koch Industries has had a representative on the institute’s board since 2007, the congressmen note, and has reportedly engaged in bribery abroad.
(click here to continue reading Dems Ask U.S. Chamber If Firms That Bribed Are Behind Its Push To Weaken Anti-Bribery Law.)
In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts. “I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”
She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue. By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France. “Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.
Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.
(click here to continue reading Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales – Bloomberg.)
and from FireDogLake:
After reading the New York Time’s excellent reporting on Wal-Mart’s pervasive bribery of foreign officials (Mexico in this case, but it’s hardly isolated to them), I remembered reading stories last year, including this excellent piece by Dan Froomkin, about how the Chamber of Commerce and major corporations were quietly but persistently lobbying Congress to water down the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The FCPA, passed in cooperation with over 30 countries concerned about corruption of their own officials, as well as foreign corporations, made it a crime for US corporations to launder money and bride foreign officials. But earlier this year the Chamber and it’s mega-corporate lobbyists complained the Act was too stringent, too broad, and too vague. The underlying message, however, was that everybody does it and it’s just not fair to hamstring American companies trying to compete in a global market. And besides, enforcing it used up too many resources that our Justice Department and FBI should be using on more egregious conduct, . . . like prosecuting banks and mortgage services for massive fraud.
Given the egregiously corrupt practices reportedly carried out by senior and/or the highest officials at Wal-Mart, I assume the Chamber of Commerce and other representatives of America’s corporate elite will now publicly shame the corporate heads of Wal-Mart, demand they be purged to protect the good name of the business community, and devise some means to rebate ill-gotten profits to the Mexican people.
With equal probability, I’m also expecting the United States Attorney General to announce a real, comprehensive investigation of Wal-Mart — because they just read about this — and all other reports of corporate bribery in violation of the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act. Because if they don’t, they’re just part of the coverup and they, too, should be purged. And I want a pony, too.
(click here to continue reading Will Chamber of Commerce Call for Wal-Mart Corrupters to Be Purged? | FDL News Desk.)
Gee. Um, no comment.
Wal-Mart said in a filing Thursday that it might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and that it had begun an internal investigation, hired outside counsel and alerted the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company said the investigation was a result of a voluntary internal review of its global anticorruption practices this year along with information “from other sources.”
“The company has begun an internal investigation into whether certain matters, including permitting, licensing and inspections, were in compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” Wal-Mart said in its quarterly filing to the S.E.C.
The act forbids bribing foreign officials, among other items.
Matthew J. Feeley, a lawyer with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney who works on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases, said companies had incentives to go to the government on their own if they suspected the act had been violated in the hope of getting some type of leniency. “It’s expressly stated that they will give credit for that voluntary disclosure,” he said of the S.E.C. and Justice Department. Outcomes can include the government’s declining to take action, its asking the company to issue a press release or file a court report about the facts of the case, or its levying heavy fines and asking for a guilty plea, he said.
(click here to continue reading Wal-Mart Discloses Internal Investigation – NYTimes.com.)
(parenthetical note: why does the NYT, and so many news outlets spell Walmart with a dash? Notice the photo of a newly opened Walmart I took recently: no dash. Yet the NYT calls the corrupt company, “Wal-Mart”. )
[Wal-Mart Towers, West Loop]
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open a Neighborhood Market store at the Presidential Towers apartment complex in the West Loop in what would be the discount chain’s first small grocery store in Chicago.
The world’s largest retailer intends to spend $1 million to build out 26,491 square feet on one level at the residential tower at 555 W. Madison St., according to a building permit filed on behalf of Wal-Mart.
(click here to continue reading Wal-Mart market coming to Presidential Towers | Chicago Breaking Business.)
from the Wall Street Journal, 2009, but still relevant:
Since February, about 60 UFCW organizers have been dispatched to more than 100 Wal-Mart stores in 15 states to get workers to sign union-authorization cards. The cards are attached to flyers that feature a photograph of President Barack Obama and a quote from a 2007 speech he gave to UFCW activists in Chicago. “I don’t mind standing up for workers and letting Wal-Mart know they need to pay a decent wage and let folks organize,” Mr. Obama said in 2007. A White House spokesman said Thursday that the president stands by the statement.
Meanwhile, the UFCW plans to fly about 100 pro-union Wal-Mart workers to Washington this month to lobby members of Congress on the pending legislation, known as Employee Free Choice Act. The bill, organized labor’s top legislative priority, would allow unions to bypass secret-ballot elections and form union locals if more than 50% of workers at a company location signed cards requesting representation. At this point, the union said it hasn’t obtained majority support at any Wal-Mart stores, but has majorities in a handful of individual departments, which can be unionized separately.
Business groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat the bill and say it would allow union organizers to pressure workers to sign cards.
Wal-Mart remains one of labor’s staunchest opponents, arguing that a union would lead to higher operating costs and less flexibility in managing workers. It also represents labor’s biggest prize, because its jobs can’t be shipped overseas and it sets standards in the retail and grocery industries. Union officials believe they would have an easier time organizing Wal-Mart competitors if the retailer were represented by unions.
(click here to continue reading Union Intensifies Efforts to Organize Workers at Wal-Mart – WSJ.com.)
Kevin Robinson of the Chicagoist has been covering Wal-Mart’s Chicago plans for a while:
A lot of them are afraid that they’re going to close the store,” Linda says. “Because they did close a store.” Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquière, Quebec Canada in 2005 after workers there joined the United Food and Commercial Workers union. That Wal-Mart employees in suburban Chicago know this five years later is a testament to the company’s efforts to ensure that its employees don’t sign union cards.
Wal-Mart uses a subtle but effective form of union busting to keep their employees from organizing. It starts with showing anti-union videos as part of new employee orientation. A requirement of all employees is that they must attend mandatory “continuing education” meetings, featuring videos produced by corporate headquarters. Rosetta and Linda told me about the videos the company makes employees watch. “Our [store] had never used a demo person [in a video],” Rosetta told me. “A demo person is the ones that just lost they jobs – you wear black pants, white shirt and a white hair net…. They added a new saying watch out for this person, if they talking out against the company, they might be crazy. And they showed a person wearing black pants, a white shirt and a white hair net. And it was like watch out for a worker like that she might be crazy!” Rosetta says that when that video came out, her coworkers were telling her she had to go see it, because they felt she was the one being portrayed.
But Wal-Mart has made indoctrinating their employees against joining a union part of the culture of the company. Aside from regularly showing anti-union videos, they also maintain a well-organized set of front-line managers to harass, interrogate and threaten employees that might be trying to get organized. Documented cases of such practices in the Chicago region don’t appear to exist, as a serious union organizing drive has yet to materialize in a local Wal-Mart. But a 2007 case study by Human Rights Watch looked pretty extensively at the corporation’s actions in Greely, Colorado and Kingman, Arizona, both the site of serious attempts by employees to join the UFCW.
Dystopos. Wal-Mart maintains a national union hotline that supervisors are instructed to call at any hint that the employees in a given facility might be considering joining a union. Teams of professional union busters are then sent from Bentonville, Arkansas to thwart any attempt by employees to organize. In both Greely and Kingman, the company’s labor relations team was deployed to the stores.
(click here to continue reading Working for Wal-Mart, Part Three – Chicagoist.)
and how did Wal-Mart get permission to even build stores in Chicago?
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s divide-and- conquer strategy prevailed in Chicago by pitting construction workers against employees who will stock shelves and ring registers.
The biggest U.S. retailer reached a deal with the building trades union two weeks before the city council unanimously approved Chicago’s second store. Those workers will erect all Wal-Mart facilities in northern Illinois during the next three years, according to a labor agreement signed by Patrick Hamilton, Wal-Mart’s vice president of construction.
The non-union employees who will staff the stores in the nation’s third-largest city have no such agreement.
“Wal-Mart played on the whims of the building trade unions, and the rest gave in,” Reverend Booker Vance, a spokesman for Good Jobs Chicago, a coalition of local unions, congregations and community groups, said in a telephone interview. “You have a lot of smoke and mirrors, and Wal-Mart would like to give the impression that they acted in good faith, but they have not.”
Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California at Santa Barbara and author of “The Retail Revolution: How Wal- Mart Created a Brave New World of Business,” agreed with Vance.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization representing 300 unions in the area, were “sold out by the building trades, who are still pretty powerful in the city,” Lichtenstein said in a telephone interview.
(click here to continue reading Wal-Mart Cracks Chicago by Splitting Union, Non-Union Workers – Bloomberg.)
Still won’t shop there, despite being able to soon see Walmart from my window. Hope various small businesses nearby don’t shutter.Footnotes: