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The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: WMT BBRY AVP

5. Avon Gets Dinged

Come on Avon (AVP - Get Report). Open up the door and let Uncle Sam in already. Hiding behind a legal curtain is clearly not helping you.

The cosmetics seller saw its credit rating placed on review for downgrade by Moody's last Friday as a result of the company's settlement discussions with the SEC and DOJ over a foreign bribery probe. Regulators want Avon to pony up more than $100 million for its misbehavior, according to a WSJ report, while Avon CEO Sheri McCoy said this summer she's looking to settle for around $12 million.

Yes, you can drive a truck through that difference. More than that, actually. A fleet of trucks with its own private fleet on the side.

Moody's pending decision affects $2.4 billion worth of Avon debt, which is already rated a far less-than-pristine Baa2. Avon saw its bonds sink in value this week as a result of the uncertainty, while the cost of insuring its debt rose by half a percent. The selloff in Avon's bonds followed last Thursday's shellacking in the stock, which dropped 20% after the beauty products purveyor posted a third-quarter loss of $5.5 million compared with a $31.6 million profit last year.

"The third quarter was tough," McCoy said. "However, overall, Avon is headed in the right direction, parts of our business are stabilizing, and we are making progress toward our three-year financial goals."

Get real, McCoy. We know your predecessor Andrea Jung left you in a tough spot, but unless you mean "down," you are definitely not heading in the right direction. Avon's North American sales fell about 19% in Q3, while its China division posted a 67% decline in revenue.

And it's not just down, its "out," too. The company is exiting emerging markets such as South Korea and Vietnam when the rest of the world is piling in.

"We have cash balances. And obviously, we also have a revolving credit facility that we have in place for backup liquidity needs," said McCoy.

See here, Sheri. You have $800 million in cash on hand and access to more. We highly suggest you tap into it to get the government off your back so you can get back to business. We're not sure what your lawyers are telling you, but after spending $340 million in legal fees in the past five years, it's clear to us that they are the only ones benefitting from this silly standoff.

Put simply: Find a reasonable sum and be done with it. Otherwise, your bonds will be downgraded to junk, your borrowing costs will skyrocket and all the make-up in the world won't cover up whatever ugliness comes next.
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