PARIS — A L’Oréal shareholder and his Swiss distribution company lodged a complaint in the prosecutor’s office here Friday against Lindsay Owen-Jones, the French beauty giant’s former chairman, who they accuse of setting up a parallel distribution channel in Russia in 1996.
This story first appeared in the April 6, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Janez Mercun’s firm Temtrade, which from 1974 to 1999 distributed some L’Oréal products in Eastern Europe, have alleged active and passive corruption, aggravated laundering, misappropriation of corporate funds and breach of trust, confirmed Frédérik-Karel Canoy, the lawyer representing Mercun and Temtrade.
The complaint is being studied, according to a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
“Today’s alleged revelations date from a past commercial disagreement in 1998, which was already ruled upon by court in L’Oréal’s favor throughout five different proceedings,” said a company spokeswoman. “The definitive decision from the highest jurisdiction [the cour de cassation] was rendered in 2003. These unfounded accusations, reported in the media today, as well as during every step of the past proceedings, attempt to artificially reactivate this case which was concluded in 2003.”
Canoy takes a different stance, claiming the five former accusations lodged in France’s civil justice system have “absolutely nothing to do” with this new one, which is in the criminal justice system.
Mercun and Temtrade’s recent complaint is a supplement to their legal action taken on Sept. 30 — and still pending — against Owen-Jones and Liliane Bettencourt, L’Oréal’s largest individual shareholder. As reported, Mercun and Temtrade allege misuse of corporate funds linked to past contracts L’Oréal granted to photographer François-Marie Banier.
On Sept. 20, L’Oréal announced it had ended those contracts with Banier, who was yearly receiving 710,000 euros, or $1 million at current exchange.