Barnes & Noble Inc on Tuesday filed a countersuit seeking damages from the former chief executive officer it fired in part because of claims he sexually harassed a female employee.
The largest U.S. bookstore chain said Demos Parneros breached his duties of loyalty and good faith by sexually harassing the female employee, bullying subordinates, and attempting to “sabotage” a potential sale of the New York-based company.
In its countersuit, Barnes & Noble said Parneros’ lawsuit “downplays what occurred,” and that the company should recoup his salary, bonus and other benefits during the period of his “disloyal conduct” and cancel his outstanding equity awards.
Barnes & Noble said the female employee reported two incidents in which Parneros allegedly subjected her to unwanted touching or comments of a sexual nature.
It said that in the second incident, Parneros allegedly pulled the employee toward him so their faces touched, and as she tried to pull away he said she seemed like someone who “would put out” if he “wined and dined” her.
Barnes & Noble also said Parneros derailed a takeover that would have cost him the CEO role, after portraying the company as an “ugly mess” that had “no realistic prospects for success” in a June meeting with executives of the potential acquirer.
According to the countersuit, Barnes & Noble has received “additional complaints about Parneros’ inappropriate behavior toward women” at the company since his termination. Barnes & Noble declined to elaborate.
Parneros has denied B&N’s allegations.
What an utter mess – exactly what B&N doesn’t need right now.
Whether or not the allegations are true (the situation is so muddled that at this point picking a side says more about one’s biases than the case) this case is the exact opposite of what B&N needs right now.
B&N needs to portray the image of competence and professionalism so as to allay fears about its downward spiral. Instead, this case makes the senior management look like jackasses. It is putting the question in everyone’s head that if B&N can’t even manage to fire its CEO without causing a scene, can we really trust them to run a company?
That is not the question you should want your creditors asking.