After Top-Level Struggle Confronted with evidence of widespread corruption in Mexico, top Wal-Mart executives focused more on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing, an examination by The New York Times found.
The headlines are from Saturday’s New York Times. The news article details how Walmart de Mexico—that nation’s largest employer—regularly paid huge bribes to Mexican government officials to approve permits for new stores; how senior management of the Mexican subsidiary was party to the bribery; how Walmart headquarters in Arkansas investigated the allegations of bribery, and how, when the investigations turned up hard evidence, hq proceeded to bury it.
“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” So goes the conventional wisdom, but in this case it was both: the crime was committed by top management of the Mexico subsidiary, and the cover up was by top management of the parent company.
In my business ethics courses we use Walmart as a case study: Is the company ethical or unethical, and is it good or bad for America.
On the plus side Walmart gives employment to hundreds of thousands of workers, huge profits to its shareholders, and enriches its customers by providing goods at huge savings.
On the minus side Walmart pays poverty wages to most of its associates, has forced workers to work overtime off the clock, has paid women less than men, drives suppliers to the wall as it demands ever lower prices, and destroys thousands of small retailers that once made for vibrant downtown areas in small towns across America.
My business ethics classes wrestled with the ethical issues, and usually disagreed about the overall conclusion. No longer, though. The bottom line seems to be that Walmart is beyond unethical—it’s a criminal enterprise.