* SEC probe focused on exec's disclosure to Citi analyst
* Had shared info on separate bribery probe into Avon
* SEC told Avon it closed inquiry without pursuing action
* Avon in talks to settle wider bribery probe with SEC, DOJ
By Aruna Viswanatha and Phil Wahba
WASHINGTON, Sept 13 U.S. securities regulators
do not plan take any action stemming from an investigation into
whether Avon Products Inc executives improperly shared
information with analysts, Avon said on Thursday.
The staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission's
enforcement division told the company it doesn't intend to
recommend any enforcement action against the company, Avon said
in a regulatory filing.
The disclosure follows a year-long investigation that led to
the firing of Avon's former vice chairman, Chuck Cramb.
The SEC had been examining whether Cramb shared material
information with a Citigroup analyst when he spoke to her about
a separate br i bery probe into the cosmetics company, and told
her any misconduct unearthed by that inquiry appeared to be
limited to China.
Such information could violate Regulation FD, which bars
companies from tipping off analysts and investors about material
information. In January, Avon said Cramb was leaving the company
in connection with the investigation.
A SEC spokeswoman declined comment.
The conclusion of the disclosure probe lifts one of many
clouds over Avon, which is in the process of trying to turn its
business around under new CEO Sheri McCoy, who took the reins in
April from longtime chief Andrea Jung.
The company launched an internal probe in 2008 into whether
its executives had broken U.S. laws meant to prevent companies
from paying bribes overseas. The SEC and the Justice Department,
which enforce the foreign bribery law, the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act, opened their own inquiries.
The company's investigation initially focused on China, but
spread to other countries including Brazil, Russia and France,
and has led to dismissals and departures in the past
Two months ago, McCoy said on a conference call that Avon
was in the early stages of settlement talks for the bribery
probe, raising hopes on Wall Street that the company was getting
closer to putting an expensive distraction behind it.
A lawyer for the company, Claudius Sokenu of Arnold &
Porter, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.