WASHINGTON -- The L'Oreal controversy shifted from France to the U.S. Wednesday.
A $100 million lawsuit was filed against Cosmair Inc., L'Oreal's New York licensee, by former L'Oreal official Jean Frydman, and his brother David. Jean Frydman alleged he was ousted from L'Oreal because he is an Israeli citizen and the French cosmetics giant was cooperating with an Arab League boycott of that nation.
The filing in New York State Supreme Court came after the end of a three-year limit for legal actions in France, where the brothers unsuccessfully battled L'Oreal.
The suit centers on Jean Frydman's claim that L'Oreal removed him in 1989 as vice chairman of Paravision, a joint venture he initiated with L'Oreal. Frydman, who holds dual citizenship with France and Israel, claims the Paris-based company ousted him to win favor with the Arab League and get off its boycott list, where it was placed after its acquisition of Helena Rubinstein.
After Frydman was ousted, the Frydmans' investment in the company suffered a $100 million loss, according to the suit. A principal cause for their loss, the suit contends, was Paravision's abandonment of a deal to buy the archives of Columbia Studios for $2.5 billion.
The Frydmans allege a campaign of bribery, forgery and deceit was waged at the behest of the late Jacques Correze, Cosmair's founder and a one-time Nazi sympathizer, who died in 1991.
Responding to the suit, Cosmair issued a statement late Wednesday, distancing itself from Correze and claiming the litigation "clearly misstates" its activities.
"Jacques Correze...acted as a non-executive chairman of Cosmair," the statement said. "He was not the president nor ceo and had no involvement in the day-to-day operations of the company."
Cosmair also described itself as "a U.S. company operating exclusively on the American market" and said it "has no business interest in the Middle East."
The Frydmans' cause has been embraced by Jewish organizations. In a Jan. 20 letter to Cosmair president Guy Peyrelongue, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, called on L'Oreal to build a Rubinstein factory in Israel as a good-will gesture. French-Jewish organizations claim L'Oreal shuttered its Israel factory in 1989 under Arab League pressure. The Israeli factory, said L'Oreal, was one of 25 it closed that year.
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