Bloomberg News

Avon Executive Charles Cramb Departs Amid Bribery Probe

February 01, 2012

(Updates with closing share price in last paragraph.)

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Avon Products Inc. said Charles Cramb, vice chairman of its developed market group, has left the world’s biggest door-to-door cosmetics seller amid the company’s internal investigation into bribery.

Cramb, who had previously been chief financial officer, departed in a “personnel action” taken Jan. 29, Avon said in a regulatory filing yesterday. No “final determinations” have been made in the investigation, nor have Cramb’s separation terms been decided, the New York-based company said.

The company is investigating potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws bribing foreign officials. Avon also said in October that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is probing the company’s foreign operations and its dealings with analysts.

Cramb is the most senior executive so far to leave in connection with the internal probe, which began in 2008 with an investigation into allegations of improper travel, entertainment and other expenses at Avon’s Chinese operations.

Subsequently, the company fired four executives including S.K. Kao, the general manager, and Jimmy Beh, finance chief of the China unit. Avon later said it was expanding the probe to other developing countries.

Last month, Avon announced that Chief Executive Officer Andrea Jung was stepping down. Jung, 53, who had run Avon since 1999, will remain chairman and work with the board to recruit a replacement, the company said Dec. 13. Jung recommended splitting the CEO and chairman roles “to better address the company’s scale and opportunities,” Jennifer Vargas, a spokeswoman for Avon, said in an interview in December.

Executive Shake-Up

Avon is shaking up the executive suite amid slowing sales and profit growth as consumers cope with unemployment and an economic expansion that has trailed forecasts. With its door-to- door sales model, Avon also vies with larger rivals such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Estee Lauder Cos. that can spend more on research and marketing and have a strong retail presence in fast-growing emerging markets such as China.

Vargas declined to comment beyond the filing. Cramb didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left for him at home.

Avon fell 1.2 percent to $17.77 at the close in New York. The shares dropped 40 percent last year.

--With assistance from Matt Boyle in London. Editors: James Callan, Robin Ajello

To contact the reporter on this story: Cotten Timberlake in Washington at ctimberlake@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net


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