Lululemon prevails in lawsuits over yoga pants recall

Fri Apr 4, 2014 5:47pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel and Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawsuit accusing Lululemon Athletica Inc of defrauding shareholders by hiding defects in some yoga pants that led to a costly recall and caused the retailer's stock price to fall should be dismissed, a U.S. judge said.

Investors accused Lululemon of failing to disclose how its black Luon yoga pants were too sheer, falsely touting its quality control, covering up an inability to address shortfalls, using deep discounts to boost market share, and concealing plans to replace its then-chief executive, Christine Day.

The case arose after shoppers found that pants containing Lululemon's proprietary Luon fabric were see-through when worn.

That culminated in a March 2013 recall and loss of roughly $2 billion of market value for the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company.

In a draft decision released on Friday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said statements made by the company, Day and founder Dennis "Chip" Wilson touting the superior quality of Lululemon's products were "puffery," and neither intended to mislead nor untrue when they were made.

Laurent Potdevin replaced Day in January as chief executive. Wilson is stepping down this year as non-executive chairman.

The judge said the investors' case boiled down to an argument that if Lululemon had only properly tested the pants before selling them, it would have realized that the pants were see-through, and that colors bled when used during exercise.

"We are not yet at a point when an apparel company's failure to employ testing by live models renders statements touting high quality false and misleading," she wrote. "It is only reasonable to assume that if Lululemon secretly knew that the (alleged) fix for its quality issues was simply to employ more people to wear its yoga pants and exercise, it would have done so - rather than the alternative of losing $2 billion in market capitalization."   Continued...

Lululemon merchandise is pictured in this photo illustration Toronto December 12, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren