Walmart de Mexico Analysis Paper
After you have fully read the case, complete a stakeholder analysis just as you did for the first case. When you identify the stakeholders, make sure that you discuss each stakeholder and his/her interests. Place the analysis within the text of your essay.
On page four of the case under “Instructions, you will find four different “courses of action” to take in response to the case. Identify which course you would take, and why. Remember to incorporate course materials.
Continue the analysis by identifying the other ethical issues such as corporate social responsibility, integrity, reputation, bias, or corruption among others. Analyze those issues using the facts of the case and the ideas from the authors whom we have read.
give credit to the authors whose work you are relying upon. All authors, including from our reading list, must be credited! In text citations (APA) or footnotes (MLA) formats are equally acceptable. When in doubt, make sure you give credit!
Be complete and thorough. For example, if you choose to discuss corporate social responsibility, be sure to refer to the authors and their ideas specifically – don’t rely on the reader to guess whom you are discussing.
Your essay should be 4-7 pages in length, double-spaced, or thereabouts. This is just a guideline – it is not a requirement. Please review your paper for any errors in spelling, sentence structure, grammar, word choices and logic. Compare your paper against the rubric to make sure it is sound structurally (format) and substantively (content). Writing errors result in a loss of points.
Wal-Mart de Mexico
Note: Most of this material is adapted from David Barstow, “Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle,” New York Times, April 22, 2012.
In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance.
In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country. The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.
Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
Wal-Mart de Mexico was the company’s brightest success story, pitched to investors as a model for future growth. (Today, one in five Wal-Mart stores is in Mexico. Wal-Mart now employs 209,000 people in Mexico, making it the country’s largest private employer. )
The corporate investigation included more than 15 hours of interviews with the former executive, Sergio Cicero Zapata, who resigned from Wal-Mart de Mexico in 2004 after nearly a decade in the company’s real estate department.
In the interviews, Mr. Cicero recounted how he had helped organize years of payoffs. He described personally dispatching two trusted outside lawyers to deliver envelopes of cash to government officials. They targeted mayors and city council members, obscure urban planners, low-level bureaucrats who issued permits — anyone with the power to thwart Wal-Mart’s growth. The bribes, he said, bought zoning approvals, reductions in environmental impact fees and the allegiance of neighborhood leaders. He called it working “the dark side of the moon.”
During hours of questioning, Mr. Cicero described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had perfected the art of bribery, then hidden it all with fraudulent accounting. Mr. Cicero implicated many of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders, including its board chairman, its general counsel, its chief auditor and its top real estate executive.
But the person most responsible was the company’s ambitious chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, a native of Ecuador who was recruited from Honeywell in 2001 to become Wal-Mart’s chief operating officer in Mexico. Mr. Cicero said that while bribes were occasionally paid before Mr. Castro-Wright’s arrival, their use soared after Mr. Castro-Wright ascended to the top job in 2002.
Mr. Cicero described how Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders had set “very aggressive growth goals,” which required opening new stores “in record times.” Wal-Mart de Mexico executives, he said, were under pressure to do “whatever was necessary” to obtain permits.
During this time Walmart build new stores with stunning speed. By the time the bribery allegations reached executives at the company’s Arkansas headquarters in the fall of 2005, Walmart had more than 750 stores in Mexico and was opening new ones at the rate of almost two per week.
Meanwhile Mexico’s remaining 3 homegrown hypermarkets combined to form a joint purchasing company, Sinergia, in the hopes of strengthening their purchasing power with suppliers, allowing them to match Wal-Mart’s prices. The three promised to work together to smooth out supply kinks and develop new products, particularly ones made in Mexico.
As Walmart grew, Mexico’s traditional vendors, open-air markets, and independent businesses declined. Competing supermarket chains, which had combined to meet the Wal-Mart threat– were left in the dust too, unable to match Walmart’s speed and financial muscle.
Mr. Cicero said Mr. Castro-Wright had encouraged the payments for a specific strategic purpose. The idea, he said, was to build hundreds of new stores so fast that competitors would not have time to react. Bribes, he explained, accelerated growth. They got zoning maps changed. They made environmental objections vanish. Permits that typically took months to process magically materialized in days. “What we were buying was time,” he said. Each month, Mr. Castro-Wright and other top Wal-Mart de Mexico executives “received a detailed schedule of all of the payments performed,” he said, according to the lawyer’s notes. Wal-Mart de Mexico then “purified” the bribes in accounting records as simple legal fees.
Wal-Mart de Mexico’s stunning growth made Mr. Castro-Wright a rising star in Bentonville. In early 2005, he had been promoted to a senior position in the United States. Just days before Mr. Cicero’s first debriefing, Mr. Castro-Wright was promoted again. He was put in charge of all Wal-Mart stores in the United States, one of the most prominent jobs in the company. He also joined Wal-Mart’s executive committee, the company’s inner sanctum of leadership.
In December 2005, Wal-Mart’s investigators wrote confidential reports to Wal-Mart’s top executives laying out all the evidence—the rewritten audits, the evasive responses from Wal-Mart de Mexico executives, the donations for permits, the evidence bribes were still being used. They stated that there was “reasonable suspicion…to believe that Mexican and U.S. laws have been violated.”
By January 2006, the situation had reached a critical juncture. Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott, Jr., had to decide what to do. What should be done about this preliminary investigation, which indicated wrongdoing on the part of a star executive already being publicly discussed as a potential successor to Mr. Scott?
Wal-Mart’s ethics policy offered clear direction. “Never cover up or ignore an ethics problem,” the policy states. And some who were involved in the investigation argued that it was time to take a stand against signs of rising corruption in Wal-Mart’s global operations. Each year the company received hundreds of internal reports of bribery and fraud, records showed. In Asia alone, there had been 90 reports of bribery just in the previous 18 months.
The situation was bad enough that Wal-Mart’s top procurement executives were summoned to Bentonville that winter for a dressing down. Wal-Mart’s vice chairman warned them that corruption was creating an unacceptable risk, particularly given the government’s stepped-up enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (which criminalizes bribing foreign government officials for business advantage).
Yet at the same time, there were misgivings about the reach and power of the internal investigation. Some Wal-Mart de Mexico executives accused the investigators of being disruptive (One person involved in the case said they were overly-aggressive and “just never let up.”). Others called the investigators naïve about the moral ambiguities of doing business abroad. They argued that Corporate Investigations should focus more on quietly “neutralizing” problems than on turning corrupt employees over to law enforcement. Some executives saw Mexico as a country where bribery was embedded in the business culture. It would be different if the same behavior occurred in the U.S., they argued, but it should be different here. “It’s a Mexican issue; it’s better to let it be a Mexican response,” one person said, describing the thinking of Wal-Mart executives.
In Mexico, corruption exists at all levels, from business leaders to street vendors. It seems easier to get something done with a bribe than to fill out myriad forms and wait in lines to confront evasive government workers. According to a recent study, companies spend approximately 10 percent of their earnings bribing corrupt officials. In the last 30 years, the Mexican economy has lost more than $870 billion to corruption, crime and tax evasion.
The consequences of this corruption are clear. When devastating earthquakes hit Mexico City in 1985, an alarming number of shoddily constructed public buildings — schools, hospitals and government offices — were destroyed. The school system is controlled by the politically powerful teachers’ union, and around 90 percent of the budget is eaten up by teachers’ salaries, though many on the payroll work for the union or hold political office instead of teaching. Extortion and protection rackets flourish alongside drug trafficking. President Álvaro Obregón, who was assassinated in 1928, once said that “no general can resist a 50,000-peso cannon blast,” a precursor to today’s “plata o plomo” — silver or lead, the drug cartel’s offer to officials of a bribe or a bullet.
Clearly, putting an end to corruption — to kickbacks and nepotism, to crooked judges and policemen, to delinquent bureaucrats and drug lords — is Mexico’s greatest challenge. In 2000, when the left-of-center Institutional Revolutionary Party lost the presidency and its 71-year grip on power, there were hopes for reform, but it remains to be seen whether increased democratization will lead to lessened corruption.
As the report of Wal-Mart’s investigation of bribery by Wal-Mart de Mexico reached CEO Lee Scott, there were other challenges facing the company in the United States. The release of the documentary “The High Price of Low Cost,” cast Wal-Mart in a very negative light. The movie made a barrage of charges: that the company didn’t pay fair wages, that it offered few jobs with benefits, forcing workers to rely on Medicaid, that it forced workers to do unpaid overtime, fought unionizing efforts, failed to promote female employees, and put small local businesses out of business. Wal-Mart was beginning to expand from its base in rural and suburban areas into urban America, but labor and citizen activists organized against the company, and protested noisily. Wall Street analysts began referring to this negative publicity as “headline risk.” Under fire from critics, worried about press leaks and facing a sagging stock price, Wal-Mart needed to do whatever it could to improve its image. At this point CEO Scott made a public argument that better business practices would help the company.
Mr. Scott and other executives met with activists to improve Wal-Mart’s labor and health care records, to outline an aggressive energy conservation plan, to position Wal-Mart as a company that was bringing fresh, affordable food to underserved areas and to develop initiatives to help promote female workers.
The company’s fiercest critics doubted the efforts, saying they were public-relations moves with little substance, but at least in some circles, Wal-Mart was seen as a better corporate citizen. And the company planned to continue its expansion plans in the U.S., moving into cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Wal-Mart’s leaders recognized that the allegations of a bribery scandal could have devastating consequences.
It is early 2007. Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott has called a meeting to discuss what should be done about the findings of the company’s preliminary investigation of Wal-Mart de Mexico. He needs advice!
Instructions:Let’s assume that Scott has identified three decision options:
1. Ignore the problem, assuming that it any harm from legal action and/or bad publicity would be outweighed by profits from expanding operations in Mexico.
2. Instruct Corporate Investigations to attempt to “quietly neutralize the problem” doing what they can to hide the past bribery practices and reduce them in the future, while continuing the expansion in Mexico.
3. Make the results of the investigation public, and take appropriate action against the executives involved in the bribery schemes, which will inevitably limit expansion, at least in the short-term.
TellScott which of the three would be the most ethical course of action for him to take, and why. In doing so be sure to conduct a thorough stakeholder analysis, and to support your recommended course of action with perspectives on ethical decision making from the course.