Headquartered in New York City, Avon Products is the world’s largest direct-seller firm, and by far the largest direct seller of cosmetics and beauty-related items. Avon is the fifth-largest cosmetics and fragrance firm in the world. The company receives sales from catalogs and online, but the vast majority of its sales come from about six million independent sales representatives in 110 countries. Since 1892, Avon has empowered women to be their own boss and become leaders in communities and business. Avon is struggling to recover from poor management and global bribery investigations. Specifically, law firm Zamansky LLC is investigating Avon’s employee personal savings account plan (the “Plan”) for potential violations of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). This federal act imposes fiduciary duties to prudently manage and invest plan assets. According to the claim, Avon allegedly violated ERISA guidelines by its continued offering of company stock during a pending federal investigation for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Between 2010 and 2015, Avon’s stock price fell from over $40 per share to below $10 per year. The collapse in stock price relates to the FCPA investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission that makes it illegal for U.S. companies operating in foreign countries to pay bribes or kickbacks. Separate shareholder lawsuits have alleged that Avon engaged in systemic FCPA violations, and misrepresented its revenues from various foreign countries. One lawsuit alleges that Avon made numerous misrepresentations about the extent, reach, and costs of the investigations against the company. According to Zamansky, Avon employees who purchased and held company stock through the Plan since 2010 suffered substantial losses to their retirement savings. Zamansky says FCPA investigation and shareholder lawsuits raise serious issues over the prudent monitoring and oversight of the Plan by Avon under ERISA.
Source: David Fred, David Forest (2016), Strategic Management: A Competitive Advantage Approach, Concepts and Cases, Pearson (16th Edition).