Veteran Ralph Lauren exec Howard Smith to resign after probe finds he violated company ethics

Veteran Ralph Lauren exec Howard Smith to resign after probe finds he violated company ethics

Ralph Lauren Europe President Howard Smith attends Vogue Foundation Dinner Photocall as part of Paris Fashion Week – Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018-2019 at Musee Galliera on July 3, 2018 in Paris, France.

Julien Hekimian | Getty Images

Ralph Lauren said Wednesday that its executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Howard Smith, will resign immediately after the retailer learned of allegations regarding his personal conduct.

Upon learning of the allegations, the audit committee of the board of directors launched an independent investigation with the assistance of outside counsel, Ralph Lauren said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The investigation revealed conduct that violated Ralph Lauren’s code of business conduct and ethics and other policies, it said.

Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Smith had been with the company for just under 20 years, according to his LinkedIn profile, having served in a variety of positions including VP of logistics and SVP of Ralph Lauren’s global supply chain.

His profile page on Ralph Lauren’s corporate website was already blank on Wednesday morning.

Ralph Lauren emphasized in the SEC filing that the resignation is unrelated to its financial reporting and business performance.

Ralph Lauren added that regional leaders who already oversee the day-to-day business will report on an interim basis directly to CEO and President Patrice Louvet.

This marks the second retailer to lose a high profile executive this week over misbehavior. Cosmetics company Estee Lauder said Monday it forced out executive John Demsey, days after he acknowledged a racist meme on a personal social media account.

Ralph Lauren, meantime, has been undergoing a bit of a turnaround under Louvet. In February, the retailer reported fiscal third-quarter revenue that exceed analysts’ expectations, thanks in large part to the CEO’s efforts to sell more merchandise at full price points.

Luxury retailers have largely benefited during the pandemic from wealthier consumers’ willingness to splurge on high-end handbags, apparel and accessories.

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