Say the words "FREE MAKEUP" near almost any woman, and she is likely to look like a drug addict looking for a crack pipe. Free? Where? How do I get some? Now? Where? Where? WHEEEEEEERE??????

Yes, ladies, there will be free makeup given away in department stores in January. A class action suit filed in California federal courts in 2003 accused department stores and cosmetics companies of colluding to fix prices. In short, the suit said that these companies made plans to sell products only at suggested retail prices, and not offer any discounts. Special promotions were also allegedly coordinated so that the stores wouldn't be competing with one another.

The settlement of the lawsuit requires $175 million of free cosmetics to be given away at stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Filene's, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Shoppers don't even have to prove that they bought certain brands of makeup during the period in question. All they have to do is show up at the right counters at the right stores.

Shoppers will be eligible for brands like Chanel, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, M.A.C., Clinique, and Prescriptives. More information on the settlement can be found at a website devoted to it. You can register to be notified exactly when the giveaway will happen. You'll be eligible for $25 of products, but they'll be given away on a first-come first-served basis, so watch out for the stampede. The big winners in this case? The attorneys who are receiving $24 million in fees.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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