Alibaba’s IACC membership has been suspended amid threats of a member walkout and allegations of conflicts of interest directed at the coalition president.
The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) has suspended Alibaba’s membership to the organisation after an outcry from members over its admission and allegations of conflicts of interest aimed at the coalition’s president.
The Chinese e-commerce giant was granted membership to the US-based group in April this year. The membership came despite the company’s controversial history with counterfeit products and the fact that some IACC members are currently involved in a lawsuit with Alibaba over counterfeit merchandise being sold over its platforms.
The membership suspension comes after a number of high-profile brands — including Gucci America, Michael Kors and, most recently, Tiffany & Co. — publicly left the group, with Michael Kors calling Alibaba “our most dangerous and damaging adversary” in a letter to the coalition.
Many IACC members have questioned Alibaba’s commitment to fighting counterfeit merchandise, with its membership being perceived in some circles like nothing more than a PR move.
In a letter to its 250 members, the IACC said it decided to suspend Alibaba’s membership “in consideration of some of the concerns raised by our membership,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Some IACC members have questioned why Alibaba was admitted to the group in the first place, questioning the group’s corporate governance procedures. It has since been revealed that the group’s president, Robert Barchiesi, has significant ties to Alibaba, which weren’t disclosed to coalition members. Barchiesi is reported to have close ties to an Alibaba executive, Matthew Bassiur, who hired Barchiesi’s son. Barchiesi has also owned stock in the company since it went public in 2014.
“It’s crossed the line ethically,” said Deborah Greaves, a group board member from 2011 to 2013. “Everything the IACC does that makes Alibaba look better potentially drives up the price of the stock. As a board member, I would never have bought stock in Alibaba.”
The IACC has announced that it will hire an independent firm to review its corporate governance policies.
An Alibaba spokesperson said the company is committed to “continue our productive and results-oriented relationships with brands, governments and all industry partners.”
The membership suspension comes as Alibaba founder Jack Ma is set to make the keynote address at the IACC’s Spring Conference.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, Ma has cancelled his keynote address at the IACC Spring Conference.
“Given the IACC’s desire for additional time to reflect upon the viability of its general membership category, Alibaba feels it best that Jack Ma postpone his appearance,” Jennifer Kuperman, Alibaba’s head of international corporate communications, said in a statement.
Alibaba Group President Michael Evans will speak at the conference in Orlando, Florida instead.