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Politics

Partner in firm founded by Romney’s son tied to possible Walmart coverup

A partner in the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney’s oldest son and Romney’s chief fund-raiser has been linked to attempts to cover up an alleged bribery scheme by Walmart executives in Mexico.

H. Lee Scott Jr., an operating partner at Solamere Capital, helped shut down an internal investigation of rampant bribery in Mexico when he was Walmart’s chief executive in 2005, according to a New York Times report.

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Solamere Capital was founded in 2008 by Taggart Romney, Spencer Zwick, Mitt Romney’s national fund-raising chairman, and Eric Scheuermann. The firm’s investors include Romney campaign donors, and Mitt Romney, himself, was the first to buy in — with a $10 million investment.

There is no evidence linking Solamere, Tagg Romney, Zwick or Mitt Romney to the Walmart scandal.

The Times reported Sunday that Walmart’s Mexican subsidiary paid at least $24 million in bribes to obtain building permits in that country between 2002 and 2005. When a former executive told company lawyers about the practice, and a preliminary investigation showed his claims to be credible, Scott and other high-ranking Walmart officials squashed the probe, according to the Times.

Walmart did not notify the Justice Department of possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act until December 2011, after the Times began its work on the story. Federal investigators are now looking into Walmart’s business practices in Mexico, a company spokesman told the Times.

“If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for,” the spokesman, David W. Tovar, said.

Scott, who now chairs the executive committee of Walmart’s board of directors, declined to comment to the Times.

Scott has never contributed to a Mitt Romney campaign and is not a major political donor, in general. His most recent donation was $1,000 to Robbie Wills, a Democratic state representative from Arkansas, who ran unsuccessfully for the US House of Representatives in 2010.

Scott’s only other contributions have been $2,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2008 and $2,000 to former President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Scott joined Solamere in November 2009, eight months after he retired as Walmart’s chief executive. A company statement at the time said he would “assist Solamere Capital in the evaluation of investment opportunities and … play a key role in contributing to the growth of its portfolio companies.”

Tagg Romney, Zwick, and Scheuermann said in the statement that they were “honored to be working with Lee.”

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday. A phone message left at Zwick’s home was not immediately returned.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.

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