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From Bad to Worse at Avon

October 31, 2013

DOJ gets ready to unload a big fine.

It was all tricks and no treats for Avon on this Halloween. Company share prices plunged down 22% (the worst decline in 14 years), after the direct seller of beauty products said the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice may propose much bigger than expected settlement terms over investigation into its alleged bribery practice in China and other countries.

The federal agencies in June rejected Avon's proposed $12 million settlement offer. Avon said it was contacted by SEC staff in September, when SEC's suggested terms of proposed monetary penalties that were much bigger than Avon's earlier offer. The company said if the DOJ were to propose similar terms and the company were to enter into settlement, its "earnings, cash flows, liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business would be materially adversely impacted." The disclosure was made as Avon swung to a third-quarter loss following about a 20% sales drop each in North America and Asia.

"There's no shortage of challenges for us," CEO Sheri McCoy said on a call

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