NEW YORK,- Jack Ma, the head of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is withdrawing from an anti-counterfeiting convention in Florida just two days before he was scheduled to give the keynote speech.
Alibaba announced the move Tuesday following last week’s suspension of the company’s membership in the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), a small but influential group that lobbies U.S. officials and testifies before Congress.
Ma is a self-made billionaire, and Alibaba, which he founded in 1999, went public in 2014 in the biggest initial public offering of stock to date. But some IACC members view the company as the world’s largest marketplace for fakes.
Members of the IACC rebelled against Alibaba’s membership in the group and were further upset about conflicts of interest involving the group’s president, Robert Barchiesi.
According to an investigation by The Associated Press, Barchiesi had stock in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., had close ties to an Alibaba executive and had used family members to help run the coalition. The conflicts of interest weren’t fully disclosed to the IACC board, and it has since hired an independent firm to review its corporate governance policies.
The IACC website listed Ma scheduled to talk Thursday about the importance of e-commerce and Alibaba’s efforts to protect intellectual property rights on its platforms.
Instead, Alibaba President Michael Evans will represent the company at the annual spring conference in Orlando, Florida and will “reinforce Alibaba’s commitment to fighting counterfeits and the importance of strong collaboration between brands, governments and intermediaries.”
Alibaba also alluded to its suspension from IACC, calling it a “step in the wrong direction and regrettable. It highlights a fundamental difference in how we want to solve this problem.”
In recent weeks prominent companies including Gucci America, Michael Kors and Tiffany have quit the group in protest, alleging that Alibaba knowingly profits from the sale of fakes. Alibaba has called the related lawsuits filed against the company “wasteful litigation.”
The Washington D.C.-based coalition has more than 250 members.