Bausch & Lomb's Purloined Lenses

FIRST, BAUSCH & LOMB GOT hit with a Securities & Exchange Commission probe over how it accounted for contact-lens shipments. Now, a high-level B&L manager has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $50,000 worth of lenses from a Rochester (N.Y.) B&L warehouse, using a company van. Lens division credit manager Raymond Quercia and two low-level employees plead not guilty.

Is there a link to the accounting imbroglio? The SEC is looking into whether B&L used dubious accounting methods to inflate its yearend 1993 sales figures. The company concedes only minor accounting irregularities. As credit manager, Quercia would have been involved in negotiating payments with distributors, a key area of the SEC inquiry. But B&L insiders say the accounting decisions were made higher up. More likely, the arrests are another sign of loose controls at the company's freewheeling lens division.

Lenses are hard to sell on a street corner, so industry execs think the likely buyer was an authorized distributor. Sources familiar with the situation say B&L suspects another manager in the theft, which may have been the latest in a string. None of the three men arrested would comment.

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