Jonathan Moss, the chief legal officer fired by Gucci America Inc. because he was not authorized to practice law, fired back at the company Friday in an affidavit filed amid Gucci's court battle over trademarks.
And now Gucci may be facing a wrongful termination suit, if Moss' language is any indication of his intentions.
Though not a party to the case, Moss spoke out as "a matter of professional responsibility." He said, "Gucci alleges that it terminated my employment for cause because I 'deceived' it and because it 'questioned my trustworthiness.' These allegations are inconsistent with the facts and are untrue."
The affidavit states that Moss believes Gucci's reasons for firing him are "inconsistent with the facts and the law." He cited excellent performance evaluations and his accomplishments while in-house counsel at the company.
Moss had voluntarily gone on inactive status with the California bar, where he was licensed. His inactive status came out during the trademark infringement suit brought by Gucci against competitor Guess Inc. in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He has since converted back to active status.
Gucci lawyers have argued that communications with Moss about the trademark litigation are confidential under attorney-client privilege. But Guess countered that they are not privileged because Moss was not authorized to practice law due to his inactive status.
Gucci attorney Louis Ederer, a partner at Arnold & Porter in New York, filed a motion to protect the privilege (pdf), claiming that Moss is a member of a state bar, and that no one at Gucci knew his license wasn't up-to-date when they talked with him. Ederer didn't return calls for comment.
But Gucci fired Moss anyway.
Moss said he believed that his inactive status had no effect on his being able to be an in-house counsel, and that he never hid his inactive status from Gucci. The issue, he said, "just never came up."
Contrary to Gucci's contention that he was hired in a non-lawyer position, Moss claimed that he was hired as a legal associate to work with the company's outside counsel, Patton Boggs & Blow (now Patton Boggs), where all legal work was outsourced.
He said Gucci paid his annual bar dues to California when he submitted statements that showed his inactive status.
"In short," his affidavit concluded, "while I support Gucci's motion [to protect the privileged communications], Gucci is incorrect in alleging that I did anything misleading or inappropriate."