It’s been a busy week for Ralph Lauren! Following our report last Friday that he was being sued for mowing over Oprah’s sound engineer, the silver fox is back in the fashion law news as Ralph Lauren Corp. today agreed to pay $882,000 in penalties to resolve charges that it bribed officials in Argentina to sidestep customs and inspection requirements over a five-year period.
The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission claimed that bribes were paid to Argentine import officials between 2005 and 2009, violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The bribes were apparently paid through a customs broker to get Ralph Lauren products into Argentina without necessary paperwork and to avoid inspection of prohibited products. The violations were found when the company adopted measures to improve its worldwide internal controls. All culpable employees were fired and the authorities subsequently notified.
Authorities praised Ralph Lauren’s “extensive, thorough and timely cooperation, including voluntarily making employees available for interviews, making voluntary document disclosures, conducting a worldwide risk assessment and making multiple presentations to the Department of Justice on the status and findings of the internal investigation and the risk assessment.”
Ralph Lauren Corp. will not be prosecuted over the findings. The agreement with the SEC is reportedly the first non-prosecution agreement the agency has entered into in the foreign bribery context.