Marc Jacobs' former chief operating officer wasn't fired because he complained about employees being forced to do pole dancing -- he was canned for cooking the books to the tune of $20 million, the fashion company charged yesterday.
Patrice Lataillade had filed suit against the designer earlier this year, charging he was canned from his $1 million-a-year job as both the chief financial and operating officer of Marc Jacobs International after he complained about rampant harassment of employees by company President and co-founder Robert Duffy.
"Examples of Duffy's conduct which created a hostile work environment include his displaying gay pornography in the office and requiring employees to look at it; his production and dissemination of a book which includes photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude; his requirement that an MJI store employee perform a pole dance for him," the suit said.
The company fired back with both barrels yesterday, accusing Lataillade in court filings of having inflated the public company's financial performance by millions of dollars so he could collect big-buck bonuses.
"Through his manipulation of MJI's financial performance, Lataillade was able to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus payments for himself" that "he would not have received had Lataillade presented the true financial performance of MJI."
Audits revealed the total of "false and inflated entries" exceeded $20 million, the filing says.
It says the financial shenanigans were uncovered last July after a new vice president of finance was hired.
The court papers also blew off allegations that Duffy used the company as his personal piggy bank and noted that Lataillade's deal had numerous perks, including "an annual automobile allowance of $10,000, annual round-trip airfare to Paris for Lataillade and his family, and additional compensation for tuition fees for Lataillade's children."
The company also loaned him $60,000 in 2008 that he was supposed to repay by the end of 2009 -- but he has yet to pay back a cent, the filing says.
As for the book of Jacobs' employees in the nude, the filing says it "was created to raise money for breast-cancer research" and is available for purchase on the company's Web site.
"The employees who chose to participate in the book did so voluntarily," the filing says.
The company is seeking unspecified money damages from Lataillade and said his claims are "pure fantasy."
"Lataillade was not subjected to sexual harassment or retaliation, nor did he ever complain of such conduct," the filing says.
Lataillade's lawyer, Anne Vladeck, said her client didn't fudge his numbers. She noted that the company had been audited during the five years when Lataillade is alleged to have carried out the scheme. She also called MJI's denial of the harassment claims "surprising considering we have photographs, video and other evidence."