Monday, April 22, 2013
The SEC announced a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with Ralph Lauren Corporation in which the company will disgorge more than $700,000 in illicit profits and interest obtained in connection with bribes paid by a subsidiary to government officials in Argentina from 2005 to 2009. The misconduct was uncovered in an internal review undertaken by the company and promptly reported to the SEC.
The SEC said it determined not to charge Ralph Lauren Corporation with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) due to the company's prompt reporting of the violations on its own initiative, the completeness of the information it provided, and its extensive, thorough, and real-time cooperation with the SEC's investigation.
The NPA is the first that the SEC has entered involving FCPA misconduct. NPAs are part of the SEC Enforcement Division's Cooperation Initiative, which rewards cooperation in SEC investigations. In parallel criminal proceedings, the Justice Department entered into an NPA with Ralph Lauren Corporation in which the company will pay an $882,000 penalty.
According to the NPA, Ralph Lauren Corporation's cooperation included:
Reporting preliminary findings of its internal investigation to the staff within two weeks of discovering the illegal payments and gifts.
Voluntarily and expeditiously producing documents.
Providing English language translations of documents to the staff.
Summarizing witness interviews that the company's investigators conducted overseas.
Making overseas witnesses available for staff interviews and bringing witnesses to the U.S.
According to the NPA, the bribes occurred during a period when Ralph Lauren Corporation lacked meaningful anti-corruption compliance and control mechanisms over its Argentine subsidiary. The misconduct came to light as a result of the company adopting measures to improve its worldwide internal controls and compliance efforts, including implementation of an FCPA compliance training program in Argentina. Ralph Lauren Corporation's Argentine subsidiary paid bribes to government and customs officials to improperly secure the importation of Ralph Lauren Corporation's products in Argentina. The purpose of the bribes, paid through its customs broker, was to obtain entry of Ralph Lauren Corporation's products into the country without necessary paperwork, avoid inspection of prohibited products, and avoid inspection by customs officials. The bribe payments and gifts to Argentine officials totaled $593,000 during a four-year period.
Under the NPA, Ralph Lauren Corporation agreed to pay $593,000 in disgorgement and $141,845.79 in prejudgment interest.