Tyson Foods Inc. paid $5.2 million to the U.S., admitting it made improper payments to government-employed inspection veterinarians. Photo: Tina Fineberg/Bloomberg When Tyson Foods Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. received internal reports that employees may have paid bribes in Mexico, each faced the same vexing question: should they turn themselves in to US authorities? Tyson, the biggest US food processor, avoided prosecution by paying $5.2 million and admitting it made improper payments to government-employed inspectors. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, began an internal probe in 2005, shut it down and didn’t disclose the matter to regulators and prosecutors until late last year, after learning the New York Times was investigating, the paper said. The US offers leniency to companies like Tyson that self- report. Yet many choose to remain quiet, calculating that they will cooperate with the government if it uncovers their bribery. Companies root out their wrongdoing and improve their compliance programs, assuming that any credit the government gives them for self-reporting is not worth the fines and penalties and negative publicity that follow disclosure. “I’ve represented many, many companies that have elected reasonably not to disclose, and management at those companies was highly ethical,” said Joel Cohen, a…
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