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Ralph Lauren Executive Resigns After Investigation Into Conduct and Ethics

Ralph Lauren’s EVP and chief commercial officer Howard Smith has resigned after the company conducted an independent investigation into his personal conduct.

The investigation, which was carried out via Ralph Lauren and outside counsel, “revealed conduct that violated the company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and other policies,” according to a Wednesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Smith’s resignation is effective April 2, 2022, and is not related to the company’s financials or business, the company stated in the filing.

In response to a request for comment, Ralph Lauren directed FN to a letter sent from Ralph Lauren CEO and president Patrice Louvet to employees on March 2 announcing the news.

“We are saddened by this situation and recognize that this news will come as a surprise,” Louvet wrote. “Howard has contributed significantly to the evolution of our Company for the past 20 years, and we are grateful for that.”

FN has reached out to Smith for comment.

Smith started at Ralph Lauren in 2002 as a VP of logistics and operations in Europe, according to his LinkedIn profile. Through his close to 20 years at the company, Smith served in various supply chain leadership positions, including as SVP of global supply chain. He also served in multiple director and group president roles until he was named chief commercial officer in April 2019.

According to the SEC filing, regional leaders will take over Smith’s duties in the interim and will report directly to Louvet.

The announcement comes shortly after another high-profile retail departure at Estée Lauder, also for issues related to conduct. The cosmetics company said on Monday that it had fired EVP John Demsey after he posted offensive content on his personal Instagram account that did not “reflect the values of The Estée Lauder Companies.”

Ralph Lauren reported results for the third quarter in February, which included a revenue increase of 27% to $1.8 billion, beating analysts’ expectations. In North America, Q3 revenue increased 30% to $929 million. The strong results come after a move to simplify its structure in 2020, which resulted in company-wide layoffs to bolster annual pre-tax expense savings.

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