business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

I’m lousy when it comes to predictions, which is why I never win things like NCAA pools and probably never will. So guided only by my perpetually clouded crystal ball I find myself at a complete loss when it comes to impact of the alleged bribery scandal at Walmart.

It’s possible that the New York Times badly connected the dots in its massive investigation of the retail giant and produced a faulty conclusion of apparent cover-ups and denials. The Times may be the best American newspaper, but it has messed up before. It’s also possible that Walmart’s cooperation on the case minimizes the damage and repairs a problematic system in Mexico.

Then again, maybe the article that appeared Sunday - and was commented on here at MNB yesterday - was dead on. In that case we might all look back in years to that article and its impact on Walmart, causing the company to lose numerous key executives, focus and resources at a critical moment. We can’t know and despite the animosity many in the industry have toward Walmart no one should be in a rush to judgment. Remind yourself that we really don’t know.

Still, there’s no way this moment passes easily and that’s why companies should be hesitant to dismiss this as “just doing business” or anything else. This story demands that we examine uncomfortable issues like ethics, internal audits and the importance of doing the right thing.

If you need a reminder of why that’s important, forget about Walmart and think larger: about the financial disaster that changed the global economy. It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch the opening segment of the April 22nd edition of “60 Minutes.” The show features an extraordinary interview with Anton Valukas, the attorney assigned to investigate the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers that was the spark that engulfed a then-weakening economy in the mess that remains today.

Valukas makes a number of chilling points. He explains how Lehman used an accounting maneuver to repeatedly conceal $50 billion in bad assets and how the company’s management was alerted to the problem in 2007, only to lay off the whistleblower. And he tried to explain how two years after his report on his findings no one has been prosecuted.

But the biggest point came when Valukas was asked who was impacted by what Lehman did.

“Everybody got hurt,” he said. “The entire economy suffered…yes, the whole world.” One can only imagine how different the world would be today if Lehman - among others - had asked a lot of questions and come up with very different reactions.

And then take a tough look inside your company.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
KC's View: