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Buffett Call Pays Off (Mexicans)

Billionaire investor and Obama donor Warren Buffett bought Wal-Mart stock as company was bribing Mexican officials

A man checks out at a Mexico City Wal-Mart / AP Images
• April 23, 2012 2:36 pm

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Liberal billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment firm initiated a considerable stake in Wal-Mart as the retail company was engaged in "a campaign of bribery to win market dominance" in Mexico.

Berkshire Hathaway purchased nearly 19 million shares of Wal-Mart stock in the second and third quarters of 2005, right around the time that company officials first learned of massive bribery scandal in Mexico, according to a New York Times report published over the weekend.

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. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: "There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated."

As of Dec. 31, 2011, Buffett’s firm was the fourth-largest institutional investor in the company, owning close to 40 million shares worth more than $2.3 billion.

Buffett, a devout supporter of President Obama and the inspiration behind the so-called Buffett Rule to raise taxes on the super-wealthy, has a history of profiting from the administration’s policies.

Buffett has personally contributed $5,000 to Obama this election cycle, while Berkshire Hathaway has given $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee.

Wal-Mart has also done its part to support the Democratic Party, recently donating $50,000 worth of gift cards to the host committee for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., exploiting a loophole in the party’s pledge to ban contributions from large corporations.

A host committee official told Politico that the gift constituted an "in-kind" contribution, and hence did not violate the ban on corporate cash donations.

Obama will deliver his convention acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium.

Buffett recently invested $5 billion in Bank of America, a stake that jumped nearly $154 million in value in February after the U.S. Justice Department announced a major foreclosure abuse settlement with the five largest U.S. banks.