Obama, Using Wal-Mart, Has a Chance to Redeem Himself
What distinguished Enron from past (and future) corporate scandals was that its top execs went to prison. That has actually happened to violators of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, though not recently (here's one example dating back to 2001) -- only once in a blue moon and never to execs of a well-known company like Wal-Mart. But it could happen this time if the egregious acts set forth in the Times article are proven.
If so, it would be an important signal to Corporate America, if Obama is willing to make it, that despite his quest for campaign contributions and frustrating hesitancy to go to the mat with misbehaving corporations, Obama still has the soul of the agent of change we elected four years ago. He ought to grasp at the opportunity.
Enron and the Wal-Mart Mexican bribery scandal don't have very much in common, but they share the same stench of moral turpitude at the highest levels of the executive suite. No amount of spin-doctoring and crisis management is going to make this one go away. If Wal-Mart thinks that it can make its south-of-the-border horror show evaporate with an SEC disclosure and a press release, it's got another thing coming.
This is not a one-day story that only the New York Times is going to follow. Expect Congress to jump on the bandwagon as well. I can just see Capitol Hill piling on even in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, with Wal-Mart execs sweating it out in front of the cameras in Capitol Hill hearing rooms, being chastised by the likes of Gary Ackerman. Wal-Mart's share price will continue to be hammered as everyone involved takes a chunk out of Wal-Mart's hide.
After all, even before this all happened, Wal-Mart was hardly the most warm and fuzzy of companies. Its thuggish behavior toward suppliers and employees is the stuff of legend, even though the atrocious publicity has died down from the feverish heights of a few years ago. They don't call it the "Bully of Bentonville" for nothing.