In a court filing in response to the August suit by former CEO Demos Parneros, who was suddenly fired without severance in July, Barnes & Noble alleges that Parneros was justifiably fired because he sexually harassed a female employee, bullied some executives and undermined a potential sale of the company.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the B&N filing charged that Parneros twice "inappropriately touched a female subordinate and, during the second incident, he made an advance and used sexual language." B&N said that after Parneros's filing, the company "received additional complaints about Parneros's inappropriate behavior toward women at Barnes & Noble."
B&N also charged that Parneros "attempted to sabotage" the sale of the company "to preserve his position as CEO and contrary to the Board's clear directive." Part of the "sabotage" consisted of "a shocking monologue portraying the Company in an extremely and unduly negative light," the day before discussions with the potential buyer ended in June.
Reuters added that, according to B&N, the monologue included Parneros describing the company as an "ugly mess" and saying it had "no realistic prospects for success."
In a statement after yesterday's B&N filing, the Wall Street Journal wrote, Parneros "denied that he had sexually harassed anyone and rejected the allegation that he had undermined the potential sale of the company. He also denied bullying anyone. 'These false allegations are nothing more than an effort to tarnish my reputation and punish me for seeking justice,' he said."
Reuters noted that Parneros's statement said he was "fully supportive of the sales process from the start."
B&N fired Parneros suddenly on July 2 for "violations of the company's policies," although at the time it didn't say what those violations were.
In late August, Parneros sued B&N for breach of contract and defamation, asking for severance of more than $4 million, damages and punitive damages. That suit included the first public mention of a potential buyer for B&N--who Parneros said withdrew the offer after due diligence. The suit also discussed Parneros's alleged bullying, which involved CFO Allen Lindstrom, whose work, Parneros said, chairman Len Riggio and the board considered substandard.
[Editor's Note posted March 23, 2023]
On October 14, 2020, Demos Parneros and Barnes & Noble issued this joint statement:
"Former CEO Demos Parneros and Barnes & Noble have amicably settled all claims regarding his termination in 2018. This matter has been resolved with no judicial determination of wrongdoing. The terms of the settlement are confidential."