The lawsuit alleges "false or misleading statements."
New litigation accuses Signet Jewelers Ltd. of defrauding shareholders in connection with allegations of sexual harassment within the company.
In a class action, the Irving Firemen's Relief & Retirement Fund claims that Signet, current CEO Mark Light and former CEO Michael Barnes made false or misleading statements to the investing public about the nature and severity of the allegations. The statements are alleged to have been made in press releases and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
As a result, the lawsuit claims, Signet's stock (NYSE: SIG) traded at inflated prices, reaching $150.94 per share on Oct. 30, 2015. After the allegations became public knowledge, the stock dropped 58 percent from that high point, causing economic harm to class members, according to the plaintiffs.
According to the complaint, the defendants "made false or misleading statements by concealing evidence of rampant sexual assault and harassment across the country, including evidence related to its executives engaging in such conduct at official Company functions, and, in doing so, defendants engaged in a scheme to deceive the market."
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The plaintiffs are asking for unspecified damages, interest and costs.
David Bouffard, spokesman for Signet, told INSTORE in a statement Friday that the shareholder litigation is "wholly without merit."
"Since the arbitration case was filed in 2008, Signet has fully met its disclosure requirements," he said. "Contrary to the shareholder suits and earlier media coverage, the arbitration case is focused on the Company’s pay and promotions practices for women in certain positions within our field operations team, not sexual harassment. In fact, there are no legal claims on behalf of the class alleging sexual harassment. Any references to such allegations to support claims of intentional discrimination in pay and promotions was rejected by the Arbitrator several years ago."
He said the company has "taken the allegations of pay and promotions discrimination raised in the arbitration case very seriously."
"We have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture," Bouffard said. "Therefore, we will continue to contest them in the arbitration proceedings."
About 250 former employees of Signet's Sterling Jewelers, which operates Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Kay Jewelers and Zales, have alleged that the company culture was rife with sexual discrimination and harassment. The news became public in February via a Washington Post article.
The claims are part of an arbitration case that dates to 2008. In total, the class-action arbitration case includes 69,000 women.
According to the Post, the declarations include claims that women were "routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed."
Attorneys for the workers released the employee declarations in February. The actions are alleged to have occurred in the late 90s and the 2000s.
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