SEC Allowed to Keep Wal-Mart Probe Records Private

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By Che Odom

March 14 — A federal judge in Tennessee dismissed a suit March 12 against the Securities and Exchange Commission by a law firm seeking documents connected to the agency's investigation into Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.

Judge Todd J. Campbell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee ruled that the SEC met its burden of showing that it had a proper basis for denying California-based Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd LLP's Freedom of Information Act request. His order was entered into the court record March 14.

The SEC adequately demonstrated that disclosure of the records could reasonably be expected to interfere with a pending or prospective law-enforcement proceeding, and the SEC sufficiently defined the categories of documents that it sought to withhold by doing a document-by-document review, fulfilling the requirements for exemption from public-records laws, Campbell held.

Wal-Mart has reported in securities filings that it is being investigated by the SEC and the Justice Department for potential FCPA violations related to its operations in Mexico. The company has said it is cooperating with the probes.

Campbell's opinion is the latest development in litigation that goes back to November 2014, when Robbins Geller filed its complaint after exhausting the SEC's administrative appeals process. Attempts to reach Robbins Geller for comment were not successful.

The law firm has 30 days from March 14 to appeal the district court's ruling.

To contact the reporter on this story: Che Odom in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Yin Wilczek at

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