French luxury giant LVMH will pay 10,000,000 euros (11.3 million US dollars) to settle claims it hired France’s former intelligence chief to spy upon private citizens. This includes a filmmaker who made a popular documentary that targeted the CEO of the group.
Friday’s Paris court approved the settlement by prosecutors. This was the end of an investigation that began in 2011 against Bernard Arnault, who is the third-richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine.
Francois Ruffin, a filmmaker, journalist and leftwing politician, was furious at the ruling. He made headlines in 2016 for his “Merci Patron!” (Thanks Boss!)
Ruffin filed a lawsuit against LVMH in 2019. He claimed that Bernard Squarcini (ex-head of France’s DGSI national intelligence agency), was contracted by LVMH to spy on him for almost three years while filming the movie. The Cesar, France’s equivalent to the Oscars, was awarded the best documentary of 2017.
The film tells the story of Serge Klur and Jocelyne, former textile workers who were among dozens of people laid off after their work was moved to Poland by one of LVMH’s subcontractors. The film was a huge success with the audience who cheered on the couple as it attempted to convince Arnault to pay the money to save their home, and to land Serge a full time job.
Ruffin had asked the court to reject the settlement. Ruffin claimed that 10 million euros was only 0.02 percent of the almost 45 billion euros in revenue LVMH generated last year. LVMH’s brands include Louis Vuitton and Dior as well as Givenchy and the Sephora cosmetics chain.
“Can justice be purchased so cheaply?” After Friday’s hearing, Ruffin stated to journalists that the answer was yes.
“It’s a blank-check for all future spying operations of multinationals. He said that LVMH only had to pay the fees to be exonerated from the proceedings.” Caroline Viguier (Vice-President of Paris Court) stated that the settlement took into consideration LVMH’s cooperation in the investigation and “its efforts” to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Jerome Sibille, the legal director of the company, stated that there is no system for spying within LVMH. He also said that the group accepted its responsibilities, even with regard to the failures that occurred. (AFP)