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Wal-Mart pays lawyer fees for dozens of execs in foreign corruption probe

WASHINGTON--Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is paying for lawyers to represent more than 30 of its executives involved in a foreign corruption investigation, according to people familiar with the matter, an unusually high number that shows the depth of the federal probe.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Wal-Mart paid bribes in Mexico to obtain permits to open new stores there, and whether executives covered up an internal inquiry into the payments. The department is also looking into possible misconduct by the world's largest retailer in Brazil, China and India.

In recent months, the U.S. government has brought in a number of senior Wal-Mart executives for questioning, including officials from corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the sources said. The move, along with widespread publicity about the probe, appears to have prompted executives to seek their own legal representation. The sources declined to name the executives who have submitted to interviews.

Wal-Mart confirmed that it is footing the legal bills for executives touched by the corruption probe, but the company declined to give any specifics.

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