Cartier has brought a lawsuit against Tiffany & Co. and a former employee in New York courts alleging infringement of “trade secrets.”
Cartier, a subsidiary of Compagnie Financière Richemont, claims that Tiffany — the prized new gem under rival LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s umbrella — hired a junior Cartier employee with the intention of soliciting insider information about its high jewelry collection from her.
“Plaintiff Cartier has not only uncovered direct evidence of a former employee’s unlawful taking of Cartier’s valuable confidential information and trade secrets, but through determined investigation Cartier has also opened a window into Tiffany’s disturbing culture of misappropriating competitive information,” the suit says.
It goes further to allege that Tiffany’s middle and senior management, “used quick money and title advancement to lure away an underqualified employee from a successful competitor, knowing she lacked the experience and knowledge to perform a high jewelry manager role.
“Immediately upon hire, Tiffany’s president for the Americas met with this junior manager for the express purpose of obtaining information about Cartier, openly asking for highly valuable, detailed confidential information that would foster unfair competition, while in the same breath disparaging Cartier in an unseemly manner. Fully disregarding the new manager’s confidentiality and nonsolicitation contractual obligations to Cartier, Tiffany’s president for the Americas asked her to assist Tiffany in soliciting great talent from Cartier.”
Tiffany said in a statement about the suit: “We deny the baseless allegations and will vigorously defend ourselves.”
A representative for Cartier relayed: “Cartier has filed a complaint against Tiffany and Company with the commercial division of the New York Supreme Court claiming, among other things, unfair competition.
“The basis for the complaint is alleged attempts by Tiffany’s senior management in the U.S. to improperly secure proprietary information about Cartier’s jewelry activities in the U.S. from a former Cartier employee. The former employee, who left to work for Tiffany, is also named in the complaint.
Cartier fully respects the rights of competitors to pursue their commercial objectives. In this case, however, Tiffany’s commercial ambition crossed the line between the ordinary course of business and unfair competition. As this is the subject of litigation, we have no further comment to make on the matter at this time.”
The employee in question, named in the suit as Megan Marino, appears to have deactivated her LinkedIn account. The suit says that Tiffany fired Marino after Cartier began to raise issue around the terms of her employment. Marino worked for Cartier North America for nine years, most recently as assistant manager for merchandising, jewelry, and departed in December 2021. She worked at Tiffany & Co. for less than two months.
An affidavit attached to the case and signed by Marino outlines how she was poached by Tiffany management to fill the high jewelry manager role. After her initial interview at Tiffany headquarters, Marino said she went through her Cartier work computer and share folders, “searching for documents that she believed would help her prepare for a high jewelry merchandising role at Tiffany,” that she then forwarded to her personal email.
These documents were later uploaded to her Tiffany work computer and it’s claimed that she routinely contacted Cartier employees asking for insider business information, often at her employer’s request.
Tiffany’s high jewelry division has been a key part of the jeweler’s elevation under LVMH’s stylized rebrand. In July, Tiffany hired Nathalie Verdeille — Cartier’s longtime creative director for jewelry — as its new vice president, artistic director of jewelry and high jewelry. It is understood that at Tiffany, LVMH leadership hopes to create a visual marriage between management’s French savoir-faire and Tiffany’s distinctively American sensibilities.
Cartier is seeking the return of its trade secret documents and assurance that its revealed secrets will not influence future business decisions made at Tiffany, as well as compensations.