The recent controversy surrounding Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s admittance into the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition is actually much more far-reaching than meets the eye. On the heels of Michael Kors, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co. formally withdrawing from the Washington-based anti-counterfeiting coalition, board members received an anonymous email threatening a mass defection unless Alibaba is pushed out, according to a copy obtained by The Fashion Law.
The anonymous letter to board members of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (“IACC”), including individuals from Chanel, Estee Lauder, Tiffany and Co., Abercrombie, Nike, Apple, and Nike, among others, outlines a list of concerns, including Alibaba’s membership; ties between the coalition’s president, Robert Barchiesi, and Matthew Bassiur, who took over as Alibaba’s head of intellectual property enforcement in January; Barchiesi’s salary, including a recent bonus; employment of individuals who are deemed to be “Barchiesi family members;” and the recent creation of a new IACC general membership category and the inclusion of Alibaba in as a new General Member within the organization while “eBay and DHGate have never been allowed. Both have much better track records for keeping their platforms clean.”
[NOTE: the letter came just before Tiffany & Co. announced that it is the latest member to resign from the IACC after the organization admitted Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as a member in April. In an email to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition on Wednesday, Tiffany & Co. said it was stepping off the board and withdrawing from the Washington, D.C.-based coalition as a member.]
The anonymous letter to the IACC board states, in part:
We have heard the response from Bob regarding why ‘he’ feels it is the correct decision to include Alibaba in our organization but we would now like to hear from each and every board member that voted ‘yes’ to this. We are writing to you as a concerned segment of brand owner members because we have not heard from one single brand that believes this was a positive or proper decision in any way.
So board of directors, how did you make your decision? Did each of you truly vote ‘yes’ to adding Alibaba as a member or were you silent and taken advantage of? Did any of you speak with the leadership within your company to see how they felt about this decision? Did any of you speak with your co-workers within your company that are fighting the fakes on Alibaba every single day? We are not aware of any such conversations so we now ask that you come to us and discuss these details so we can have a better understanding on how exactly it has come to this. Through our own discussions we have encountered some very serious issues that shed light on the current operations within the IACC organization.
As for the specific topics set out in the letter, the anonymous letter states: “The IACC and Alibaba relationship was well orchestrated to the sole benefit of Bob Barchiesi and Matt Bassiur.” [Remember: Barchiesi is the President of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition; Bassiur is the recently hired Vice President and Head of Global IP Enforcement for the Alibaba Group].
Moreover, the letter reads:
Bob, While we hate to address these topics anonymously, your board is made up of our fellow brand owners so you and they should completely understand our need to blow the whistle in this manner. Outside of your “Friends of Bob” circle we doubt that you will find anyone supportive of the way you have been operating this organization. Change is needed immediately. We ask that the board addresses each and every one of these topics with us prior to or during the IACC conference in an open forum. Rather than have Jack Ma speak to an empty room next Thursday you should consider that as the perfect time for a town hall discussion with all of us very concerned brand owner members. Let’s take a vote while we are all in the same room together. You are hearing the majority speak right now and the majority will not continue on as IACC members if you continue to allow membership to Alibaba.
New governance and complete transparency is needed for this organization to resurrect itself. If these changes do not occur you will see us discontinue funding your programs, halt participation in anything IACC related and we will not renew our memberships.
According to a statement from the IACC, it plans to “review all of our policies and procedures to confirm that they meet the highest standards and that our corporate governance fits the size and scope of the IACC we have become.”