Avon Suspends 4 Execs in Bribery Investigation

Avon Products Inc., the legendary American cosmetics giant, has suspended four executives amid an ongoing internal investigation into alleged bribery of government officials in China and Latin America, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The New York-based company, which posts global profits in 2009 of more than $10 billion, has suspended the president, chief financial officer and senior government liaison from its China division, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources "familiar with" the investigation.

Also pulled out of the office, according to the report, was the company's former top internal auditor, who worked out of New York.

A company spokeswoman confirmed that four employees had been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

The Journal's sources say the alleged improprieties included the purchase of trips to France, New York, Canada and Hawaii for Chinese officials who have dealings with Avon.

Avon said in 2008 that it was investigating the possibility that some expenses for entertainment and travel had "been improperly incurred," but the Journal reports the amount of money involved has now grown, and the internal probe has spread to Latin America -- the most lucrative market for the cosmetics manufacturer.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.