The glamour and prestige that emanate from owning a Hermès handbag can be attributed back to the experts who skillfully and creatively market them, and in other instances, re-sell them at a high-end designer auction. Such is fate that the world’s largest auction house, Christie’s, is being thrown a $60 million lawsuit brought on by competing auction house, Heritage.
Filed in Manhattan’s Supreme Court on Friday June 20, the suit alleges that Matthew Rubinger, who was previously employed by Heritage as the auction houses’ resident Hermès and luxury handbag expert, jumps ship after being sought after by Christie’s. Two other former Heritage employees, Rachel Koffsky and Caitlin Donovan, follow suit behind Rubinger.
So, what grounds does Heritage have for suing Christie’s other than a simple bout of jealousy? Heritage asserts that Rubinger, then head of Heritage’s luxury accessories branch, has been given training and introduction to outside sources in Hong Kong and Japan, in addition to access to a slew of Heritage’s corporate plans for expansion and branding. Heritage further claims that Rubinger got access, a week prior to his departure for a buddy and co-worker at the time to partake in an executive meeting where confidential strategic plans were being discussed. And it was this worker who followed Rubinger to Christie’s.
Heritage is citing a breach of contract and stealing of trade secrets as the basis for the case for the three persons involved and is seeking $60 million in damages and lost profits. The auction house claims that “Christie’s has attempted to seize for itself a windfall of millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains through these acts of unfair competition and unethical business practices.” They further state that neither Koffsky nor Donovan had prior auction house experience before joining the company, and that it would be impossible for either to perform their duties at Christie’s without using the confidential information gathered while at Heritage.
A representative for Christie’s stated, “We have reviewed the complaint and find it to be wholly without merit. We are prepared to vigorously defend these claims and Christie’s decision to expand our existing handbag department.”