Image: Cartier

Cartier has not been left unaffected by a string of recent high fashion poachings. The Paris-based jewelry brand and its parent company, Richemont, have filed a major lawsuit against Melissa Pordy, a former Cartier employee for allegedly plotting to misappropriate Cartier’s trade secrets after joining Tiffany & Co., and attempting to lure a current Cartier employee to a similar position at Tiffany & Co., as well. According to the complaint, which was filed last week in the Southern District of New York, Pordy began working for Cartier in 2008 in New York, most recently holding a title of Director of Off-Line Advertising. Pordy was informed in early March that her position was being eliminated as a result of reorganization of Cartier’s Advertising Department, and was dismissed on April 25, although she had been informed she would work until late June to transition her work. Prior to this date, Pordy interviewed and accepted a job with Tiffany & Co.’s advertising department.

Upon commencing employment with Cartier, Pordy agreed in writing to retain from a number of activities, such as disclosing any of the brand’s confidential information other than in connection with Richemont; using such information upon separation with Richemont; failing to return any and all information or equipment relating to Richemont following separation with the company; and luring away or hiring any of Richemont’s employees, etc. She  allegedly violated a number of the terms, among others, by instructing her assistant (who is not named in the complaint) to download confidential information from Pordy’s computer and Cartier’s network to nearly a dozen thumb drives, which were the property of Pordy’s husband’s employer. Moreover, she took her Richemont-issued work cellphone with her to Tiffany. Pordy’s assistant, who is not named in the complaint, accepted a position with Tiffany after Pordy’s solicitation, but subsequently rescinded her resignation and informed an individual at Cartier of Pordy’s request that she download information.

Not unlike the case involving Joon Ma (Louis Vuitton’s former VP of Canada and Bermuda, who jumped ship to join Coach in April), Cartier further states in its complaint that Pordy accepted a position with Tiffany & Co. before gathering the confidential information, which included the company’s advertising plans, proposals and strategies. According to Cartier, Pordy’s position entailed responsibility “for procuring advertising exposure for the brand through newspaper and magazine advertisements, television commercials, product placementm sponsorships, and billboards.” In this role, Pordy “was exposed and had access to confidential information regarding [Cartier’s] products, marketing and media strategies and plans, advertising budgets, and company initiatives.”

In addition, she was “exposed to confidential information concerning [Cartier and Richemont] and their clients, vendors, advertising and marketing partners, and employees”, which she subsequently used to her personal advance, “contacting [Cartier and Richemont’s] advertising and marketing partners and demanding that advertising opportunities she negotiated on behalf of [Cartier and Richemont] be transferred to [Tiffany & Co.].”

And in case that is not enough, the suit further alleges that Pordy “impersonated a Richemont IT employee” in order to access the “contacts from the company cell phone and that the company-owned telephone number be released and transferred to her personal cell phone”, which Pordy has “no authority” to do. Also, she has failed to return roughly $29,000 in salary and a bonus erroneously paid to her.

Richemont and Cartier are accusing Pordy of eight claims, including breach of contract, fiduciary duty and duty of loyalty; violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; tortious interference with contractual relations; conversion; fraud; and unjust enrichment. They are asking the court to order that Pordy be immediately and permanently enjoined from accessing and using any of its confidential information, and to return and/or destroy any confidential information that is in her possession. Moreover, they want to court to award them compensatory and punitive damages, interest and “reasonable” attorney’s and other fees and costs.

If the Louis Vuitton v. Joon Ma suit is anything to go by, the injunction requiring Pordy to refrain from using and returning all information should be an easy win for Cartier. Additionally, Cartier may be able to prevent Pordy from continuing her employment with Tiffany & Co. depending of any non-compete clauses that exist in her contract.