LVMH Files Another Lawsuit Against Hermès

LVMH filed civil charges on Tuesday against an unidentified manager at Hermès.

Hermès RTW Fall 2013

PARIS — The legal tussle between LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Hermès just got nastier.

This story first appeared in the June 7, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

LVMH filed civil charges on Tuesday against an unidentified manager at Hermès, an LVMH spokesman confirmed Thursday without elaborating further.

In an article published in French daily Le Figaro on Wednesday, LVMH vice president Pierre Godé was quoted as saying the group had filed the charges “following what was said by the manager.”

Although vague in his statement, Godé was presumably referring to Patrick Thomas, chief executive officer of Hermès International, who alleged during the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday that LVMH had built up its 22.6 percent stake in Hermès in a “fraudulent” way.

RELATED STORY: Hermès Blasts LVMH at Annual Meeting >>

Asked by one shareholder how Hermès accounted for a recent declaration by LVMH chairman and ceo Bernard Arnault that he came into the holding unexpectedly, Thomas said “either LVMH is disorganized” for not knowing how it came to amass its initial 17.1 percent stake — yielding more than a billion euros, or $1.3 billion, in capital gains — or Arnault did not tell the truth.

“I’ll let you decide,” he said.

Speaking at LVMH’s annual meeting last April, Arnault said: “You know, we found ourselves owning shares in this company…unexpectedly. We had not planned to be shareholders in this firm. We made a financial investment, and that financial investment had an outcome that we had not expected.”

This is the latest lawsuit between the two luxury giants in their increasingly heated battle. As reported, in September 2012 LVMH filed a suit against Hermès for slander, blackmail and unfair competition after Hermès had filed a criminal complaint against LVMH, accusing it of insider trading and manipulation.

Godé added in Le Figaro: “Hermès’ [multiple] campaigns [are] aimed to destabilize us. Our patience has its limits. It’s time that the public learns the truth.”

Godé’s statement Tuesday came just days after the French market authority, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, recommended that LVMH be fined 10 million euros, or $13.2 million at current exchange, for dissimulating its gradual acquisition of Hermès stocks between 2001 and 2010.

The authority’s enforcement committee is to reveal its final decision no later than July 31.