Lawyers for former Marc Jacobs International executive Patrice Lataillade want to hear it directly from company president Robert Duffy.
This story first appeared in the June 21, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In the latest salvo in events triggered by a suit against Duffy filed in a New York state court in Manhattan in March, court papers filed Friday by Lataillade’s lawyers at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard took issue with a response to the plaintiff’s complaint from Pascal Carpentier, senior vice president of compensation and benefits and director of benefits for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc. The attorneys said that the response should have come from Duffy, who was alleged to have “created the unlawful environment at issue or by one of the many officers who knew about and tolerated the sexually charged atmosphere.”
Lataillade’s lawsuit against Duffy alleged violations of state and city laws based on charges of sexual discrimination and retaliation. Also named in that suit were MJI and LVMH. Lataillade, who was chief financial officer and chief operating officer, charged that he was “subjected to a discriminatory environment offensive to him” and was “fired in retaliation for objecting to that environment.”
The most recent legal document said “unless a correct verification is timely provided” by the defendants, the answer would be treated as a nullity and a default judgment sought.
A spokeswoman for LVMH said, “The filing focuses on a purely technical matter and is simply an attempt to deflect attention from the facts concerning the serious financial manipulations of Patrice Lataillade, which were the sole reason he was terminated by Marc Jacobs.”
The defendants filed their answer Thursday denying the hostile work environment allegations. At the same time it filed counterclaims against Lataillade, alleging fraud for financial manipulations and unjust enrichment, among other allegations. The counterclaim alleged Lataillade was fired because figures he provided to MJI’s board and LVMH were “overstated by several million dollars to give the appearance that budget and bonus targets had been met.”
Court papers pointed out the discovery of the alleged false and inflated entries, believed to exceed $20 million, was made following the replacement of MJI’s vice president of finance. The entries were alleged to include “overstating royalty receivables, understating selling, marketing and administrative expenses, overstating raw materials inventories and failing to write off bad debts.”
The defendants also said in the court document, “LVMH made bonus payments to Lataillade in the hundreds of thousands of dollars that he would not have received had LVMH known the true financial condition of MJI.”
Debra Raskin of Vladeck Waldman said, “It is surprising that [the defendants] are saying these things now only after they have been sued when they are contending financial issues that go as far back as 2008. It is surprising that they are denying matters as to the hostile environment when there are pictures, videos and other evidence known at the higher levels of the company.”
Anne Vladeck, her co-counsel at Vladeck Waldman, said, “Our position is this is a further retaliation and they are trying to attack Mr. Lataillade rather than deal with the environment they let Robert Duffy create.”
The LVMH spokeswoman said the counterclaim reflects the evidence they have now, which wasn’t fully determined until after Lataillade filed his lawsuit.
Lataillade’s attorneys are expected to file their full response to LVMH’s fraud and unjust enrichment claims next month.