The Fashion Law Exclusive – Paris-based design house, Louis Vuitton’s North American division filed suit this past Wednesday against a former VP and NYC-based brand, Coach. According to Louis Vuitton North America’s (LVNA) complaint, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court, Joon Ma, who served as Louis Vuitton’s Vice President of Canada and Bermuda until she resigned on April 4, 2014, breached her Confidentiality, Non-Solicitation and Non-Competition Agreement (“Agreement”) by jumping ship to Coach and taking confidential LVNA information with her.
Prior to her resignation on April 4, LVNA claims that Ma accepted a position as the Senior Vice President, Global Customer Experience, for Coach on March 27 (a position not dissimilar from the one she held at LVNA), and commenced employment with Coach on April 28. Per Ma’s Agreement, she agreed she would not begin working for an LVNA competitor for a duration of six months following her resignation. And that’s not all. Louis Vuitton claims, “Prior to leaving LVNA for Coach, Ma transferred confidential LVNA information from her LVNA laptop computer to several external storage devices, and then deleted files and emails from her LVNA computer and email account in an effort to cover her tracks.” Most of which was completed in her final 24 hours of employment with the company, LVNA claims.
Ma, a Harvard Business School grad, who joined LVNA in 2008, most recently held a very highly ranked position at the company, making matters worse for the company, which rakes in annual sales of nearly $9 billion. According to the complaint, “As the senior executive for Canada and Bermuda, Ma was a member of the LVNA management committee—a 21-member committee comprised of LVNA’s most senior employees. The management committee regularly reviews and develops LVNA’s most sensitive strategic plans and information.” In fact, Louis Vuitton claims that “Ma was provided with extensive confidential and trade secrets information concerning not only LVNA’s business but also the global business of the Louis Vuitton brand as a whole.”
So, what does Louis Vuitton want for what appears to be an egregious breach (think: breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and actual and threatened misappropriation of LVNA’s confidential and trade secret information)? A lot. Among other remedies, LVNA is asking the court to force Ma to return all of its confidential and trade secret information in her possession, and cease working for Coach for the full duration of the six-month non-competition restriction contained in her agreement with LVNA. Oh, and “well over $500,000.”
Joon Ma (left) at a Louis Vuitton event
Then there’s Coach. Louis Vuitton is bringing claims against the company for intentional interference with contract and business relations in connection with Coach’s employment of Ma in violation of Ma’s contractual obligations to LVNA. Along with suing Ma for Misappropriation of Confidential and Proprietary Information and Trade Secrets, Louis Vuitton is suing Coach for that, as well.
NYC-based Ma isn’t the only one to join Coach recently. Stuart Vevers, Coach’s latest creative director, joined the struggling company after Reed Krakoff departed last year (after a 16-year tenure with Coach). Prior to accepting his appointment as Coach’s Executive Creative Director, Vevers worked for a few LVMH subsidiaries. He started his career at Calvin Klein, but subsequently moved to Bottega Veneta, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton (the latter two are LVMH-owned brands). In July 2007 it was announced that he had been appointed Creative Director of Loewe (yet another LVMH brand), where he stated until Coach. More. to. come.