The SEC and DOJ reached non-prosecution agreements with U.S.-based clothing company Ralph Lauren Corporation (RLC) to settle allegations that employees of RLC’s Argentinian subsidiary paid customs officials to avoid customs regulations in the course of importing RLC goods. In addition to cash, employees of the subsidiary allegedly gave officials perfume, dresses, and handbags ranging in value from $400 to $14,000. The total value of the improper payments and gifts was $568,000. This agreement is the first time the SEC has entered into a non-prosecution agreement in an FCPA matter, and follows from a 2010 initiative to demonstrate the SEC will reward voluntary disclosure and cooperation. The RLC case involved relatively low alleged payments, no high-level personnel, no high-level government officials, an uncertain amount of financial benefit to the company, and only one country. In addition to the company’s disclosure, cooperation and remediation, the level of conduct undoubtedly factored into the resolution. As far as the benefit to the company, there is some benefit since no charges will be filed. However, there is still a formal resolution – this is not the same as the agency simply closing the file – and financial sanctions can still be imposed. RLC agreed to pay $1.6M to the DOJ and SEC. In addition, the company must continue to cooperate in any SEC investigation into the matter or related matters; may not contradict the factual allegations in the event of a breach by the company of the agreement and subsequent SEC prosecution; and has waived all statutes of limitation. See SEC Press Release No. 2013-65, SEC Announces Non-Prosecution Agreement With Ralph Lauren Corporation Involving (Apr. 22, 2013); Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Ralph Lauren Corporation Resolves Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Investigation and Agrees to Pay $882,000 Monetary Penalty (Apr. 22, 2013).
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Ralph Lauren obtains first SEC non-prosecution agreement in FCPA customs matter
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