Avon executive opens up on risk compliance

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Management

Avon Product’s newly appointed chief ethics & compliance officer, Jeff Benjamin, has given details about the company’s risk compliance survey and what it may mean to the way it does business in the future.

Speaking at the Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium, held in Washington D.C. earlier this week, the executive told the audience that the company has conducted an all-important internal risk survey and is currently awaiting the results.

Governance, risk management and compliance are becoming an increasingly important part of the management of major international companies, as they strive to avoid internal conflicts, as well as increase business efficiency.

Risk survey comes at a crucial time for the company

In the case of Avon, the internal survey comes at a crucial time in the company’s evolution, as it continues to struggle with charges of corruption, mainly relating to business practices in China some years ago, as well as inefficiencies that are blamed with falling sales and profitability.

During the presentation, Benjamin reported that the survey had provoked a 60 percent response rate, a factor which he said underlined the fact that company executives have a strong sense of both social responsibility towards the business.

Benjamin also underlined the fact that, in addition to the risk survey, the company is also revising its code of conduct, one of the outcomes of the internal investigation into the executive bribery charges that have continued to dog the company.

Although the company has already made moves to strengthen its compliance program to include heightened due diligence and more comprehensive audits, Benjamin explained that he has been working with industry consultants on how to manage compliance challenges.

Avon’s bribery investigations have been ongoing since 2008 and are said to have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in legal and administration fees – costs it needs to avoid, particularly at a time when the business is continuing to struggle.

Ongoing investigation

To date, the company is continuing with internal investigations showing that since 2004 the company may have made millions of dollars in unofficial payments to officials all over the world.

The law firm highlights that, beyond China, the company may also have made illegal payments to officials in countries including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, India and Japan.

The internal investigations begun in June of 2008, aimed at getting to the bottom of whether or not officials at the company had violated the Foreign Currency Practices Act – a law that makes it illegal for US businesses to bribe foreign officials.

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