Detailing the Defense: Morgan Stanley Sues LVMH for $11.8 Million

Morgan Stanley countersues LVMH for $11.8 million, citing damages caused by proceedings it considers “abusive.”

PARIS — Fending off a $118-million bias and conflict of interest suit launched by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Morgan Stanley relied on an unusual industry expert on its defense: Bernard Arnault.

The LVMH chief is cited in the investment firm’s case, tabled Monday at the commercial court here, since he expressed opinions similar to those of Claire Kent, the Morgan Stanley luxury analyst he accuses of waging an anti-LVMH, pro-Gucci Group campaign in her research and in the media. Morgan Stanley is Gucci’s longtime financial advisor.

Arguing that Kent’s comments on LVMH were “completely justified,” Morgan Stanley’s defense quotes Arnault as agreeing with her on such topics as the impact of yen weakness and the Iraqi conflict on the luxury sector.

But the investment bank also disagrees sharply with LVMH, accusing it of “truncating and manipulating” Kent’s writing to construct its case.

Also on Monday, Morgan Stanley filed a counterclaim with the court seeking $11.8 million, converted from euros at current exchange, for damages caused by proceedings it considers “abusive.” Legal experts had been expecting a higher amount. But Morgan Stanley characterized the LVMH demand as “exorbitant and without precedent,” while describing its amount as “justified in all the circumstances of the case.”

An LVMH spokesman said LVMH stands by the merits of its case, but had no comment on the Morgan Stanley defense, saying its legal team needs to study the documents tabled Monday.

However, sources close to the French group said it views the defense as weak, since it stopped short of accusing LVMH of any false declarations. As reported, LVMH already claimed a victory last month when a magistrate denied a Morgan Stanley request to have its opponent clarify certain evidence.

Lawyers for Morgan Stanley filed its defense and counterclaim with the court during a brief hearing and exchange with LVMH counsel. The court set Sept. 15 as the date for the luxury group to respond, part of a long process of submissions and rebuttals that could drag the case into next year.

None of the documents tabled Monday were made public, but Morgan Stanley organized a press briefing to outline its defense.
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