Report: Avon finds bribery evidence

AP News
Posted: May 04, 2011 8:03 PM

An internal investigation by cosmetics company Avon Products Inc. has uncovered evidence of wrongdoing by its employees in several countries, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening, citing an unnamed source.

Avon's investigation of possible bribery by its employees in China began in 2008. The company later said it expanded the probe to other countries. It has been reviewing expense reports and other records related to travel, entertainment and gifts connected to foreign governments and their employees.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Dwyer Vargas declined to comment Wednesday on the continuing investigation or on the story the Journal posted online.

"We never comment on rumors or speculation regardless of whether they may be accurate or inaccurate," Vargas said.

Avon said last month that it had placed four employees on administrative leave in connection with the probe.

It said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it had fired the four, including its former general manager for China; its former head of corporate affairs for China; its former head of finance for China; and its former head of global internal audit and security.

Vargas said Avon voluntarily notified the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice of the investigation in 2008.

"We continue to cooperate with both agencies, and we believe that those are the appropriate actions for a company committed to ethical behavior," she added.

The New York-based company, well-known for selling beauty products door-to-door, is to hold its annual shareholder meeting Thursday in New York.

The Wall Street Journal said it was citing someone familiar with the investigation. Last month, the Journal also cited unnamed sources in reporting that the investigation involved the purchases of trips for Chinese government officials with ties to Avon's business.