of employees launch legal action – Liberation

In an attempt to shed light on the responsibilities of their shareholder in the fall of the company, more than 300 former employees of the ready-to-wear chain have initiated summary proceedings with the Lille Commercial Court.

More than 300 ex-employees of Camaïeu have engaged in summary proceedings with the Lille commercial court in order to obtain the documents necessary to answer their questions, and perhaps to initiate a lawsuit against their former employer after the judicial liquidation of the women’s ready-to-wear chain on September 28. 508 stores have closed across France, and 2,600 employees have been laid off. In 2020, Camaïeu had been taken over by Michel Ohayon, a Bordeaux businessman, manager of the Financière immobilière bordelaise, decided to embark on the retail trade. “We want to understand what he did to crash us so much and so quickly, explains Rebecca, one of the 332 former Camaïeu mobilized in this legal action. He takes a healthy company, with debt erased, and he puts everyone on the street two years later.

Accounting entry

Their lawyer, Fiodor Rilov, renowned for his defense of the Continentals or the Goodyears, held a press conference by videoconference Thursday afternoon in the presence of around sixty former employees. He points out several elements which seem to him to deserve explanations. Like these “management fees” paid by Camaïeu to Hermione People & Brands (HPB), the distribution division of the FIB. “These are management fees, explains the lawyer. Camaïeu paid a sum of which we do not know the amount to be managed by HPB. We ask that we be provided with the contract under which this transaction was made.” Or this accounting entry from September 2021, which erases an inventory gap estimated at 25 million euros. What appears as a huge hole to the lawyer, who takes as a reference the auction of Camaïeu stocks, which was held on Wednesday. “Two million items were presented for sale for an amount of 50 million euros”, he notes.

This accounting entry came after the cyberattack suffered by the brand in the summer of 2021, which blinded it to the contents of its stores and warehouse. The former Camaïeu employees present confirm: “There was no automatic restocking, we ended up with ten pieces in size 36, and nothing in the other sizes.” A disaster that would have cost 40 million euros to the company, according to its leaders. “We do not exclude any explanation”, says Fyodor Rilov. “We want to have the justifications, whether it is a review after the cyberattack, or any operations carried out on these stocks.”

“common fund”

The former employees and their lawyer are also wondering about the “pool” of cash, to which Camaïeu belonged. “It’s a common fund, to optimize the cash flow of each structure of the group, says Rilov. What we would like to know is if Camaïeu was able to access this pool when it experienced difficulties. The hearing on these various requests will be held on November 24 at the Commercial Court of Lille. After possible obtaining of these documents, the lawyer will judge if there is matter for “a tort lawsuit, because of faulty decision-making”. Contacted, HPB refuses to comment.