Fired exec sues equity fund backed by LVMH

He claims he was dismissed for revealing wrongdoing at private regional fund L Capital

An Asian private equity unit backed by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton is being sued by a former executive who claims to have been fired for revealing wrongdoing at the business.

Mr Uday Mehra says in papers filed in the Singapore High Court that he had raised his concerns over alleged behaviour at LVMH's regional private equity fund, L Capital Asia Advisors, such as raising profit projections for an investment target to generate illegitimate gains in a separate fund. Mr Mehra also alleges that L Capital's head made an acquisition despite opposition from his investment team and without proper due diligence. He claims that the firm conspired to fire him in a bid to "stifle the embarrassment" that would have been caused by a full and effective probe into his whistle-blowing.

L Capital, which denies the claims, makes average investments of US$30 million to US$150 million (S$40 million to S$201 million) in Asian lifestyle brands and has had other business quarrels play out in court, filings show.

The co-founder of Jones the Grocer, a gourmet food retailer, sued an L Capital unit last year, claiming it discriminated against minorities. Last month, a businessman accused the fund and others of stealing his share of profits after selling a club formerly known as Ku De Ta, the 57th-floor bar at the top of Marina Bay Sands hotel. L Capital is defending itself in both the lawsuits, which are ongoing.

Mr Mehra is seeking at least US$37.5 million, which he claims is his entitled payout for the share of profits he would have earned at one of the funds if he had not been fired, according to the lawsuit filed in March in the High Court.

Mr Mehra, who claims in court filings that he was described in fund- raising documents as a "key resource" and as the fund's "X-factor", has said he reported 11 deals from 2012 to 2014 that gave him serious cause for concern.

He claims his concerns were ignored. Instead, he says, he was sidelined from investment meetings and his working relationship with the unit's head, Mr Ravi Thakran, worsened. Reasons given for his firing, including not attending meetings, were "excuses" and he was being punished for whistle-blowing, Mr Mehra says in court papers.

"I felt extremely shocked and aggrieved as to the manner in which I was treated within L Capital Asia whilst attempting to uphold the interest of our investors and dispense my duties in a professional manner," Mr Mehra said through his lawyers at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.

L Capital denies wrongdoing and said in its defence filed last month that it fired him in June last year for misconduct and insubordination. The firm said his complaint was frivolous and that his concerns were independently reviewed and probed by LVMH.

Mr Mehra's alleged whistle-blowing was a red herring and had nothing to do with his termination, L Capital said. It also said he failed to subscribe for his share of a profit pool and was not entitled to it, according to court papers.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Fired exec sues equity fund backed by LVMH'. Print Edition | Subscribe