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Wal-Mart, NY Yankees, others settle charges of illegal trading

By Laurie Ure
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Wal-Mart, the New York Yankees, ChevronTexaco and ESPN are among companies that have settled charges of illegal trading with countries such as Iraq, Cuba and others, two private organizations said Monday.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released heavily redacted documents briefly outlining penalties levied against 51 companies, according to the publication Corporate Crime Reporter, which said it had been making inquiries for nearly a year, and the corporate watchdog group Public Citizen, which filed a lawsuit seeking the information.

According to the two organizations:

• ChevronTexaco traded with Iraq, and paid $14,071 in fines.

• Wal-Mart, the New York Yankees, ESPN and Caterpillar traded with Cuba, and settled for $50,000, $75,000, about $40,000, and $18,000 respectively.

The Yankees had no comment on the report, but a source said the team's infraction involved negotiations with Cuban baseball players. Attempts to get comment from other companies have been unsuccessful.

• -- ExxonMobil and Wells Fargo Bank traded with Sudan and settled for $50,000 and $5,500 respectively.

• Fleet Bank traded with Iran and paid $41,000 in fines.

All of the countries are listed as sanctioned under the Trading With the Enemy Act or the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Corporate Crime Reporter complained that the OFAC, which began releasing the enforcement information April 4 as a result of the litigation, is offering too few details.

"They are releasing only summary charts, devoting only one line per company," said Russell Mokhiber, the newspaper's editor. "To deter future corporate wrongdoing, OFAC must stop protecting major American companies from the glare of adverse publicity."

Mokhiber said that the OFAC told his publication it is not obligated to disclose information about its consideration of various sanctions.

Michael Tankersley of Public Citizen disagreed, saying that the government is withholding information about its communications with the companies, including the settlement offers, the agency's responses to those offers, and company counteroffers.

"The law is very clear that that type of information cannot be withheld," he said.

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