By  on November 11, 2005

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton declined all comment Thursday on a report by the French stock market regulator that sides with Morgan Stanley's appeal of an ongoing bias suit.

In January 2004, the commercial court in Paris ordered Morgan Stanley to pay the luxury group 30 million euros, or $35.3 million at current exchange, for "gross misconduct" related to equity research LVMH claimed was biased toward rival Gucci Group, a client of the investment bank.

At the request of the appeals court, the stock market regulator reviewed evidence and said it found no correlation between the opinions of Morgan Stanley and LVMH's stock performance. It filed a report in September.

Morgan Stanley also declined all comment Thursday.

But sources suggest LVMH was unruffled by the report, figuring an opinion by France's public prosecutor, which is supportive of the luxury group's position, will ultimately carry more weight in court. It is estimated the court of appeals sides with the public prosecutor in roughly eight out of 10 cases.

The commercial court appointed an expert, accountant Didier Kling, to tabulate material damages done to LVMH by Morgan Stanley. He is expected to table his findings before the end of the year.

As reported, LVMH is seeking some $276.3 million in damages, claiming a systematic effort by Morgan Stanley and its star luxury analyst Claire Kent to denigrate LVMH.

The appeals court has set March 31 for the first public hearing in the case, but a decision may not come before mid-2006.

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