Lawmakers call for SEC investigation of Shein amid IPO rumors

Venus Manansala 

The China-based fast-fashion company Shein is reportedly considering to file an initial public offering, incentivizing lawmakers to call on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the brand.

With the constraints of inflation on consumers, fast-fashion companies have thrived with their affordable prices and trendy products targeted toward young consumers who may buy clothes in bulk at an accelerated pace. Additionally, the production of these clothes is known to harm the environment.

Shein was founded in Nanjing, China, in 2008. Fast-fashion trends move fast in social media, especially with influencers and the rise of TikTok, but Shein is working to move faster. Over the past years, Shein has gained a large following that has helped build its brand to an estimated value of $64 billion.

Shein’s large and efficient supply chain has met customer demands while also keeping its prices relatively low compared to other fast-fashion companies like Zara.

Shein can also process an extensive amount of consumer data, which it heavily depends on, to cater to each prospective customer with its complex algorithms. 

Shein has not announced its plans to go public as of May 10, but it is reportedly raising money to trade in the United States within the second half of the year.

A bipartisan group of 24 members of Congress sent a letter to the SEC on May 1, asking it to investigate Shein’s manufacturing process for violation of human rights practices.

In the letter, the lawmakers cited a Bloomberg analysis that “found scientific evidence that cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) was present in clothing sold by Shein in 2022.”

They explained that if the allegations were true, this would be a violation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed by U.S. President Joe Biden on Dec. 23, 2021. The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group that mostly consists of Muslims, mainly located in Xinjiang, China.

The act aims to denounce China’s Xinjiang region by corroborating that U.S. entities are not funding forced labor among the ethnic minorities of the region.

In June 2022, the United States placed restrictions on Xinjiang imports due to China subjecting minority groups to abuses such as forcing them into internment camps, according to CNN. The members of Congress asked the SEC to certify that Shein is not violating human rights labor practices with the use of Uyghur forced labor.

“We strongly believe that the ability to issue and trade securities on our domestic exchanges is a privilege, and that foreign companies wishing to do so must uphold a demonstrated commitment to human rights across the globe,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Shein itself affirmed it follows ethical labor practices.

“We are committed to respecting human rights and adhering to local laws and regulations in each market we operate in,” Peter Pernot-Day, a spokesperson for the company, told the Associated Press. “Our suppliers must adhere to a strict code of conduct that is aligned to the International Labour Organization’s core conventions. We have zero tolerance for forced labor.”