Signet Jewelers Ltd. is facing a new securities fraud class action lawsuit that accuses the company of making false or misleading statements about the severity of sexual harassment claims against executives.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Dallas by Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund, follows a Washington Post story last month about alleged widespread sexual harassment at the company.
The Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund claims it suffered economic losses after the allegations were revealed.
Signet, which has corporate offices in Akron and employs thousands in the area, saw its stock plunge $9.29 a share in one day after the Washington Post story.
Signet has denied the allegations.
The company released this statement: “The shareholder lawsuits are wholly without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them. Since the arbitration case was filed in 2008, Signet has fully met its disclosure requirements. 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.
“We have 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. Therefore, we will continue to contest them in the arbitration proceedings.”
In the lawsuit, the Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund says the company made “false or misleading statements to the investing public about the true nature and severity of the allegations in the arbitration, which included sworn testimony of rampant sexual harassment, including sexual assault, implicating senior managers and executives.”
The lawsuit also says the complaints against the company “paint a nauseating, and stunningly consistent, picture of a company in which sexual harassment, including sexual assault, is not just tolerated but modeled at company functions by top executive.”