Ralph Lauren Corp., which closed its Buenos Aires shop last year over economic and currency issues (at a cost of US$3million in severance pay and lease expenses), self-reported to the US DOJ and the SEC, and agreed to pay
$882,000 penalty as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and $734,846 to the Securities and Exchange Commission
over bribes company employees allegedly paid to
Argentine customs officials with dresses, perfume and cash to accelerate the passage of merchandise into the South American country…
The bribes, allegedly paid via a customs broker, were labeled as “loading and delivery expenses” or “stamp tax/label tax” on invoices in order to disguise the payments, according to U.S. authorities.
The Justice Department alleged that the bribes were paid in order to improperly obtain the paperwork necessary for goods to clear customs, to permit the clearance of prohibited items and to occasionally avoid inspection entirely.
With a system of rampant corruption, the local employees probably figured it was the only way to get the merchandise to the store. Otherwise the cargo would sit in customs until a substantial part of it went “missing” – and you’d still have to pay off someone.
RLC didn’t admit or deny the allegations in its agreement with the SEC, and this is the first time the SEC has entered a nonprosecution agreement in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act matter.