Sex, lies and shopping: Dallas woman battles Neiman Marcus to return $1.4 million in goods after husband’s affair with salesperson

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She was one of Neiman Marcus’ best customers. Then she tried to return more than $1 million in luxury goods. Not because the merchandise was defective. Not because the colors were all wrong. Because her sales associate was sleeping with her husband.

Neiman’s balked. Now it’s battling a lawsuit.

How did Dallas’ most fabled retailer get tangled in a love triangle? And who will be left holding the bags?

by CHRISTOPHER WYNN

Just some of the merchandise Patricia Walker intends to return to Neiman Marcus, including these designer handbags — from Gucci to Prada to YSL — photographed June 25 at the offices of Mark Ticer, Walker’s attorney. All photographs (except video screenshots) special to FD Luxe

 

The meeting was awkward.

Malcolm Reuben, the buttoned-up vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus’ NorthPark Center store, stood inside the multimillion-dollar Addison home of one of his top customers, Patricia Walker. Beside him were two colleagues: a Neiman Marcus attorney and his store’s loss-prevention manager.

Walker was joined by her own attorney and her personal assistant.

It was a summer day in 2010. Glancing around the sleek Max Levy–designed house, the only things more dazzling than the sculptural masonry columns or the steel-and-glass staircase were the piles of designer goods: handbags, shoes, furs, clothing, crystal figurines, fine jewelry. It represented the bulk of $1.4 million in merchandise charged to Walker over a period of years.

“There was a variety of merchandise laying all over the house,” Reuben testified in a March video deposition. “She wanted to return all of the merchandise because of the affair.”

Oh, yes. The affair.

Walker had learned that Favi Lo, her longtime Neiman Marcus sales associate at NorthPark, was sleeping with her husband. And Walker saw that her charges had soared in recent years while she recovered from a horrific head-on auto collision. She came to believe that her husband was responsible for many of the purchases and had used them to pump up commissions for his mistress. In September 2010, Walker filed a lawsuit, asking for her money back and possible punitive damages. A trial is set for Nov. 5.

In Walker’s favor, there is Neiman’s well-known, generous return policy. For most items purchased from its posh stores, it states, “You may return for credit, at any time, merchandise with which you are not completely satisfied.” For online purchases, you have up to 60 days to receive a full refund.

There are also factors working against Walker. She doesn’t know when many of the items she wants to return were purchased, according to her own deposition testimony. (Her attorney has a chart of Neiman’s sales totals for Walker going as far back as 2004.) And Neiman’s says the affair didn’t begin until late 2009 — shortly before divorce proceedings started and Walker cut off her husband’s charging ability.

Further, Walker has no evidence that Neiman Marcus knew of the affair while it was going on, the defense team stresses in court filings. Neiman’s lawyers dismiss her claims in the documents as “nothing more than the ventings of a woman scorned by the infidelity of her former husband that have spilled over from her highly contentious divorce.”

How will Neiman’s address the return-policy question? It is unclear at this point.

Meanwhile, the associate, Favi Lo, is still working on the sales floor. Neiman’s representatives have testified in deposition that what happens outside of its building is her business. Walker’s attorney, Mark Ticer, has a different take and says Lo’s actions amount to fraud, or as he describes in less genteel terms: “sex for merchandise.”

The case became public in May, when Walker’s legal team pitched the tale to WFAA-TV, Channel 8. A story there led to countless other headlines, everywhere from The Huffington Post and London’s Daily Mail to ABC News and a gossipy segment on Inside Edition. The surface details have been sensationalized and rehashed endlessly, but few know just how strange and complex this drama and its players really are. The case’s extensive court filings and the depositions supplied by Walker’s team tell a vivid story, but much remains mysterious. For example, it isn’t clear who, if anyone, authorized many charges. For more than $1 million in goods, Walker’s lawyer says, receipts are missing, unsigned or illegible. Furthermore, certain records in the case are sealed, sometimes by request of Walker’s team. All of the records for the divorce itself are sealed. Both Lo and Walker declined requests for interviews. Neiman Marcus spokeswoman Ginger Reeder said the company can’t comment because the case is in active litigation.

“If I had known either from Lo — Favi Lo or Neiman Marcus or from someone else, for that matter, that this relationship was going on, the account would have been closed, there would have been no money spent; not by Bob, not by me and not by anyone else. I would not have done business with them, not a dime.” — plaintiff Patricia Walker

 

Walker remains at the center of it all. Despite the scrutiny from the lawsuit going public and the physical pain that Walker’s attorney says she still endures from her accident, you see glimmers of her trademark razor wit. There it is in the video of her pretrial deposition in February. She sits in a high-back chair, with neatly coifed hair, looking prim and defiant in a leather jacket and camel-hued cashmere sweater with a leopard-print scarf wrapped around her neck.

“And I assume you’ve never been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude?” asks a Neiman Marcus attorney, somewhere off-screen.

“No,” replies Walker, pursing her immaculately painted lips. “I think I’d remember that.”

– – – – –

Of course, there is so much Walker would surely love to forget — starting with the day she met Robert “Bob” Tennison. She was introduced to him by a Dallas investment banker and mutual acquaintance. Tennison was a thrice-divorced, retired executive in his late 50s. The two dated, and it soon became serious. Walker, already a Neiman’s customer, stated that she remembered talking with her regular salesperson at NorthPark, Favi Lo, about Tennison when they first got engaged and that Lo helped her pick out an evening gown for one of their dates. The couple married in 2005, less than a year after meeting, and moved into that gleaming white Max Levy house, which had previously been featured in a PaperCity magazine design spread.

Life was good. Walker added Tennison to her Neiman Marcus charge account and introduced him to Lo. As a newly married couple, Walker and Tennison were spending about $100,000 a year with Neiman’s, according to records compiled by Walker’s attorney. The two divided their time between Dallas and a second home on Florida’s Amelia Island.

Then in April 2007, everything changed. Flashes from that terrible day were still etched in Walker’s memory as she recounted it in her deposition. It was the Monday after Easter weekend on Amelia Island, where Walker was staying. She was on the road with her eldest son from a previous marriage, his wife and their three small children. Walker testified that she let her son drive her Toyota Sequoia because he was thinking about buying one.

There was no time to respond when, according to news reports, a 17-year-old boy crossed the center line in his Dodge Neon and struck them at 60 miles per hour. The collision ignited a grassfire that quickly enveloped both vehicles. The teenage driver burned to death. Walker and most of her family were trapped inside the Sequoia, its crumpled doors jammed shut. Bystanders broke out the windows to unstrap the children from their car seats and drag them to safety. Paramedics arrived and extracted Walker’s son and daughter-in-law, and then they cut Walker’s seatbelt straps to drag her, unconscious, from the burning heap.

“I was, basically, being treated … more like an employee than a husband.” — Walker’s ex-husband Robert Tennison

Astonishingly, the family survived.

Of course, survival was a relative term for Walker, who was among the worst hurt. She testified that she had a head injury. Her back, collarbone and legs were broken. Her ankles were crushed in multiple places. Her chest was caved in, and all the ribs on her right side were smashed. She was confined to a Florida hospital in a full body cast for four months. Her diaphragm was torn, and she had a hernia that ultimately required three surgeries to repair. The final surgery in 2009 resulted in a staph infection, forcing doctors to reopen the wound and leave it exposed for five weeks. They used a vacuum dressing to siphon out the poisonous bacteria.

But Walker had a major ally to ease the slow, excruciating recovery: money.

The Arkansas-raised belle with the high cheekbones and charming Southern drawl would be too gracious to ever say it, but she is — pardon the term — loaded. When pressed in her deposition, she gave demure answers about living on her investments, trusts and family businesses. When the Neiman’s attorney asked directly about the source of her funds, she offered a hesitant, almost humorous reply: “My father was the first Wal-Mart store manager.”

More specifically, her father was Willard J. Walker, the first manager of Sam Walton’s original Five and Dime. Walker collected vast shares in what would become one of the world’s largest corporations. Today, you’ll even find Mr. Walker’s name (along with his wife, Pat) on the wall of Alice Walton’s new multimillion-dollar Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

Patricia Walker isn’t the type to brag. Her friend, Park Cities real estate agent Terri Patrick Cox, says Walker once told her: “‘There is no ego in this for me. I’m just a very blessed and fortunate child.’” Cox explains over the phone about Walker and her money: “She’s not impressed by it. She didn’t create it. She’s certainly been a good steward of all that’s been given to her.”

Walker briefly worked as a schoolteacher years ago but gave it up when she began having children. She was twice-divorced by the time she met Tennison. For his part, Tennison was once an executive for the medical-supply giant Hill-Rom. His personal life was less successful. He admitted in deposition that at least one of his three previous failed marriages also involved infidelity on his part.

After the 2007 accident, Walker was housebound for a long period of time. She testified that she relied on Tennison to handle even the couple’s routine bills and expenses after that, including the monthly Neiman’s statements. (By Walker’s own admission, she was not very engaged with her finances or accounting team before then.) She testified that Tennison was an active shopper who became the person primarily dealing with Lo at the store. Records produced by Walker’s attorney show that their spending with Neiman Marcus suddenly tripled in the year of the accident to $363,001. In 2008, spending shot up to $449,040.

Walker’s tedious recovery apparently made nesting a focus. In addition to the Dallas house, they picked up a second Florida home — a $5 million waterfront mansion that Walker testified her husband pushed for. The following year they bought a $4 million mountaintop compound in Santa Fe. Information in court filings suggests they probably traveled to them by private jet. The couple decorated their homes, and Walker testified that she carefully made sure holiday and birthday gifts for their grown children and numerous grandchildren were shipped out from the stores on time. By the end of 2009, the couple’s spending with Neiman Marcus hit a high of $784,600.

“I can’t tell you if it’s right or wrong. It happened, and I’m sorry.” — defendant Favi Lo

 

Favi Lo became an increasingly frequent presence in their lives. Tennison engaged with her on his regular trips to Neiman’s to socialize and shop. Walker stated in a July sworn affidavit that Lo was in the couple’s home presenting merchandise (often in Walker’s bedroom, where Walker says she would prop up in a chair, wearing a housecoat or pajamas) as often as twice a month. Walker stated that she was “self-conscious” during this time in her recovery, but trusted Lo. It would seem the feeling was at least somewhat mutual. Walker stated in her affidavit that in late 2008 or early 2009, “Favi asked Sandi [Walker’s personal assistant] and I to watch her at her belly dancing class.”

– – – – –

Favi Lo’s most distinctive feature is her glossy, black hair. In her videotaped deposition last October, she wore a structured, dark suit jacket — armor-like, uncontroversial.

Lo has a bachelor of science degree and is twice divorced. She has been a fulltime sales associate in the dress collections department at Neiman Marcus NorthPark for 15 years. She moves around the store as needed to sell to her customers, and is required to split commissions in some of those other departments.

She often brought Patricia Walker — and then after the accident, Walker’s husband — to a colleague in the precious jewelry department, Gilbert Mireles. Mireles testified that he split the commissions with Lo, whom he described as “running through the store constantly” and “a wonderful salesperson.” Mireles also confirmed that Walker’s husband was a frequent Neiman’s shopper. “Mr. Tennison knew the store as well as all of us. I mean, and — and he knew people all over the store, and he would come in and he would just socialize and talk to people.”

Especially Lo.

Based on Walker’s testimony, there were warning signs. When Tennison and Walker were staying at their homes in Florida or Santa Fe, Walker testified that her husband was getting phone calls and having to leave the room, or announcing that he needed to fly back to Dallas to check the mail or handle business, even though he wasn’t working.

And then there were the more overt incidents. The couple was in Florida when Cowboys Stadium opened in 2009. Walker owned a private suite and received 16 tickets to the George Strait opening concert, but was hardly interested: “I’d rather have a sharp stick in my eye than go listen to country music,” she said in deposition. Tennison wanted to attend. Walker told him to go ahead and said he began agonizing over whom to take. “He had 16 seats, but he didn’t have 16 friends,” Walker testified, “so it was my friends who ended up going. It was all my friends, except Favi Lo.” Lo met Tennison at his Dallas home that night to ride to the stadium together. The couple’s friend, Terri Cox, also arrived to ride with Tennison and was surprised to see Lo, whom she had never met. Cox recalls the incident and explains in a phone interview how Lo casually chatted with Tennison and played with his camera — odd, she says, because Tennison was extremely particular about his possessions. Cox says the whole evening felt strange and awkward. “What made it unusual was that their interaction was too familiar,” she says. “And we’re all adults, and we recognize what that is.”

Five months after the concert, Walker testified, Lo called in a favor with Tennison and asked if Neiman Marcus could host a trunk show of Daum crystal at their house on Lake Forest Drive. The president and CEO of Daum and Neiman’s NorthPark general manager Malcolm Reuben would attend. Walker testified that she was not feeling up to it, but that Tennison said they should do it for Lo, so she agreed. Neiman’s tricked out the couple’s home with Daum, taking full advantage of all the natural light and the floor-to-ceiling windows. The retailer provided drinks and brought in its NorthPark executive chef Jeremy Neilson to prepare the bites. (Walker testified she later hired Neilson as her full-time private chef after he left his résumé in her mailbox after the party.) A couple of dozen people attended, including neighbors and friends of Walker’s such as Cox, and about eight people from Neiman Marcus, including Lo. Unbeknownst to Walker, Lo told chef Neilson that it was Tennison’s birthday and they needed a cake to celebrate. Cox recalls the party and says, “Favi was just a little overinvolved.” The chef procured a cake and set it out. Walker testified that Lo made a big scene of presenting Tennison with the surprise, completely catching her off-guard and leaving her humiliated because she had not been the one to make the gesture for her husband. “She carried the cake over in front of the entire crowd,” Walker said, “and he blew out the candles.”

Lo and Tennison claimed that the first time they had sex was a month later, November 2009, at Lo’s home in Garland. Tennison testified that Lo complained to him at Neiman Marcus about a problem with her home computer. He offered to look at it and drove to her house. Things, you could say, just happened.

Walker’s attorney painted a different picture. He obtained phone records that he said showed Tennison and Lo had been exchanging frequent calls at odd hours prior to this encounter. The attorney claimed the two also texted and emailed each other, although he could not verify the content of any of their communications.

From Manolo Blahnik to Michael Kors, some of Patricia Walker’s shoes — most with no signs of wear — declined for return by Neiman Marcus.

 

Meanwhile, Lo was excelling in her sales position, according to depositions, and testified that she was among the store’s top-producing associates. (Reuben estimated in his deposition that Lo was in the top 15.) As things between her and Walker’s husband allegedly heated up, so did the numbers.

And therein lies one of the key issues in the case:

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “Let me ask you a question here, a little common sense question, I hope. Do you think that Ms. Walker would have ever done any business with you had she known that you were sleeping with her husband?”

FAVI LO: “I — I can’t speak for her.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “Do you have an opinion as to whether Ms. Walker would have continued to do business with you if she had known you were sleeping with her husband?”

LO: “I don’t have an opinion either way.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “You don’t have an opinion?”

LO: “Either way.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “OK. If you were Ms. Walker and you were a good customer of Neiman’s and you learned that the longtime salesperson that you were dealing with was sleeping with your husband, do you — would you have continued to do business with that associate and the store … or you don’t have an opinion on that?”

LO: “It happened, and I’m sorry I hurt her.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “But that’s not the question I asked. I appreciate the apology.”

LO: “I mean, I — I don’t know what — what — you know, I can’t decide what she thinks or what I think …”

– – – – –

Despite signs of trouble, Walker testified she was stunned when Tennison suddenly filed for divorce in March 2010, after five years of marriage. And the legal reason for it was another surprise: cruelty. Tennison claimed in his deposition that Walker was dismissive and treated him “more like an employee than a husband.” He said she was “nonresponsive” to him as a wife.

Walker disputed this. “We never had a cross word,” she testified. “We never argued. He never acted like there was anything wrong.”

At the offices of Mark Ticer, Walker’s attorney, a portion of the baubles, bracelets and watches — including Harry Winston and Chanel — that Patricia Walker intends to return to Neiman Marcus.

Walker, who hadn’t yet learned of the affair, and her assistant went to Neiman’s NorthPark shortly after Tennison’s announcement, to meet privately with Lo and Gilbert Mireles, the jewelry associate who often sold to Walker through Lo. The four of them gathered in a small viewing room off the fine jewelry department. Walker explained that Tennison was no longer allowed to charge on her account. She wanted it closed and would reopen it in her name only. She said Tennison “was not going to be accorded the privilege of using any more of my money.” Mireles was very apologetic, but Walker vividly recalled Lo’s reaction: “Favi looked like somebody had hit her in the face. And now we know why.”

The affair was finally exposed through Tennison’s deposition in the couple’s divorce proceedings. His extramarital relationship meant that Lo was summoned to testify also, and Neiman Marcus, though not a party, was required to produce certain records. Details beyond that are scarce. All parties involved in the divorce agreed to a motion to seal the records.

Once Walker understood what had been going on between her husband and Lo, she went back and noticed the sharp pattern of escalation in their Neiman’s purchases. She was especially angry because her wealth was paying the bills. Walker testified that she had never pried into Tennison’s personal finances. She had set up a joint account with her husband early on where earnings from both of their investments were automatically swept in to cover expenses. According to Walker, her money moved over, but Tennison’s didn’t. She testified that, in total, her accountants showed Tennison may have only spent about $51,000 of his own money during the marriage.

Exactly who was initiating most of the Neiman’s purchases is difficult to prove. Walker testified that her husband often gave her expensive gifts. “He bought things for me and brought them home with great flourish,” she said. “‘Oh, here’s a handbag’” — a $4,000 handbag that he saw and thought she might like. Some other purchased items included a cashmere cape, Chanel and Harry Winston watches, Valentino sandals, Prada and Gucci handbags, even multiple Daum crystal statuettes. Based upon Walker’s characterization, Tennison lavished luxury goods on her as casually as a mother gives a cookie to a child with a skinned knee.

The rub? Walker, who was never a socialite, said she didn’t have use for these things. She testified that “there is no need for handbags and designer clothes and jewelry when you’re laying in a bed.”

Over the telephone, Terri Cox characterizes those days as ridiculous. “Patricia’s buying power is not limited. So, if she wanted something, she could buy it. But Patricia is not an overdoer.” Or, as Cox says later: “She doesn’t need to buy 95 bracelets. That’s not her gig.”

Walker said she sent some things back, but testified that she kept many of the gifts because “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.” In her deposition, she offered a hypothesis about the spending: “I think he shopped because he was bored. And I think he shopped ultimately to funnel income and commission to his girlfriend.”

For his part, Tennison suggested in testimony that the merchandise he bought for Walker was either a sincere gift

or at Walker’s request — that he, along with her personal assistant, Sandi Bohot, were essentially intermediaries in procuring merchandise for Walker.

Either way, the common denominator in both scenarios was Favi Lo. The sales associate soon found herself face-to-face with Neiman’s management over her actions; the outcome would only upset Walker even more.

– – – – –

Neiman’s NorthPark general manager Malcolm Reuben first learned of the affair when Walker’s personal assistant called to alert him about it. Reuben testified that he was “shocked” and “surprised.” In video of his March deposition, Reuben appeared with a neatly trimmed mustache and was dressed in a good suit, crisp shirt and striped tie. He explained to Walker’s attorney his stance on the Favi Lo situation: “I’m there to run the store. Anything that happens outside is not my responsibility or my business.”

Of course, it became his business. He testified that he held a meeting with Lo in the presence of a human resources manager to tell Lo about the phone call and to notify her that he was turning the matter over to HR and to corporate management. The person responsible for the investigation was Neiman Marcus Group director of associate relations, Gabrelle Martin. She determined that Lo’s behavior didn’t technically violate any of the company’s policies.

Walker’s attorney, Mark Ticer, pressed Martin on this in Martin’s deposition last November, citing various clauses in Neiman Marcus’ Code of Ethics and Conduct manual. In particular, Ticer cited a declaration that employees shall not “willfully conceal material facts from anyone with whom the Company does business or seeks to do business.” He asked if Neiman’s wouldn’t get involved even if the associate’s actions outside the store caused the retailer to lose a million-dollar customer. Martin replied: “If it happens outside of the workplace and it’s not illegal, I’m not going to get involved in it.”

She confirmed that Lo had not received any written warnings or disciplinary actions for the affair with her married customer.

Walker’s legal team is arguing this is highly inappropriate. In fact, they called in former high-profile Neiman Marcus sales associate James T. Farr, who went on to serve 14 years as an executive with Dallas luxury retailer Stanley Korshak, to be an expert witness for Walker’s team. “Because personal shoppers take merchandise out of the stores and mostly deal with the well-to-do in the community in their homes and offices,” Farr states in his affidavit, “they are held to the highest standards of integrity and expected to follow the rules of the store’s Code of Ethics and Conduct to the absolute degree, both inside and outside the store. Personal shoppers are usually expected to perform with a zero tolerance for misconduct. This practice, of course, is designed to keep and retain customers like Walker.” Farr noted that when he joined Neiman’s in 1980, the code-of-conduct manual was titled You’re What We’re Famous For.

Walker testified that after learning about the affair, she went to each of her homes and gathered up “every single thing that I could see that I knew had been purchased from Neiman Marcus,” including from the company’s website and Horchow, the upscale furnishings and decor company owned by Neiman’s. Walker and her attorney met with Reuben, the Neiman Marcus attorney and the loss prevention manager at her home — the aforementioned meeting — to see the goods and discuss a return. (At present, the merchandise, photographed for this story, is held in a storage unit and the jewelry is in a safe.) Reuben testified that nothing was decided. Later, according to testimony, Neiman’s offered Walker a proposal — “without waiver of its legal position” — because Neiman Marcus “values the important customer relationship” it has with Walker. The store would examine and take back items purchased beginning Jan. 1, 2010 and thereafter that were in saleable condition for a “present value refund.” (A chart of sales totals created by Walker’s attorney shows $197,281 in purchases during January and February of 2010, before activity abruptly stopped.) Later court filings indicate they may have extended that timeframe back to November 2009, presumably based on Lo’s testimony of when the affair began. Walker declined the proposal.

Steven Dennis, president of Dallas-based retail consulting firm SageBerry Consulting, is not associated with the case but offers perspective. Dennis has a unique insight into the culture at Neiman Marcus. He served as senior vice president of strategy, business development and marketing for Neiman Marcus Group from 2004 to 2008. “As a customer-service-oriented company, you want to do things on behalf of the customer,” he says, “but economic pressure on a lot of retailers is causing them to try and find ways to limit their exposure to the cost of returns.”

 

A portion of the clothing intended to be returned to Neiman Marcus by Patricia Walker, photographed by FD Luxe at the offices of Mark Ticer, Walker’s attorney, on June 25.

The recession certainly took a toll on Neiman’s financial results. It posted a net loss of $668 million in 2009 as sales fell 21 percent to $3.64 billion from $4.60 billion the prior year. Since then, profits have returned, but sales still haven’t reached prior peaks. In its fiscal year that ended in July, sales hit $4.35 billion.

“As a practical matter,” Dennis says, “retailers are pretty mindful of which customer relationships are most important. So, if you’ve got a longstanding, very valuable customer, you’re going to always give them the benefit of the doubt. I think there are other customer relationships where you scrutinize things a bit a more. When in doubt, you always side with the customer.”

In Patricia Walker’s case, it appears Neiman’s attempted to set the parameters for a possible return of the merchandise when Lo admitted the affair began, even though Walker’s team argued it started much earlier. Walker’s attorney pushed the issue with Reuben in deposition:

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “So, if the affair started in 2008, do you believe Neiman’s should take things back as far back as 2008?”

MALCOLM REUBEN: “I don’t know why we would do that, sir. No.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “Did Neiman Marcus have a philosophy or a policy to take back merchandise for virtually any reason?”

REUBEN: “As a general rule we have a — we are gracious in taking returns back. Yes, sir.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “So Neiman Marcus has a policy of taking merchandise back for virtually any reason whatsoever?”

REUBEN: “As a general rule, yes, sir.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “And so I want to make sure I understand this. If a woman bought a pair of Blahnik shoes from your shoe department and paid a thousand dollars for them, wore them for three or four months and just didn’t like them and brought them back, is it the policy of Neiman’s to take those shoes back?”

REUBEN: “As a rule, we would take them back, yes, sir.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “And as a rule, why didn’t you take the merchandise back that Ms. Walker was asking you to take back?”

REUBEN: “I believe it was related to the circumstances that had occurred.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “Well, what were the circumstances that had occurred that — why all of the merchandise wasn’t returned or taken back if you have a general policy of accepting returns?”

REUBEN: “The merchandise was sold in good faith to the customer. It is our understanding, my understanding, that this incident took place in the beginning of 2010. [Court filings suggest Neiman’s later accepted November 2009 as the start of the affair, based on Lo’s deposition.] We were willing — we offered to take the merchandise back that she had, but [for]merchandise for previous years that she had claimed she had purchased, the determination by the organization was that that was not something we were prepared to take back.”

Later in Reuben’s deposition, which Walker attended, her lawyer asked the store manager if he ever had the chance to talk with Walker one-on-one about what happened. Reuben said no.

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “So you haven’t been able to express the — say anything on behalf of the store to Ms. Walker?”

REUBEN: “I have not talked to Ms. Walker, no, sir.”

WALKER’S ATTORNEY: “Well, here’s your opportunity. Would you [like]to say anything to Ms. Walker right now on behalf of the NorthPark store?”

REUBEN: “No, sir.”

There is silence on the videotape as Reuben reaches down to take a drink of water.

– – – – –

Patricia Walker doesn’t need the money, so what’s the point of her lawsuit? Her attorney, Mark Ticer, sat across a conference table at his offices beside Central Expressway and explained: “She wants her day in court. She wants to let a Dallas County jury decide what’s appropriate under the circumstances.” He said it’s a misconception that people who have money aren’t concerned with money. “I don’t care whether you’re a zillionaire, a millionaire, or middle class, if somebody cheats you — and it’s a million-four — you want your money back.”

He described the case more pointedly later in the conversation: “Stanley Marcus would turn over in his grave if he knew they were operating this way.”

Neiman’s lawyers have preferred to speak through their court filings: “Each of Plaintiff’s causes of action is without merit. Simply put, she purchased goods and has retained those goods and has no evidence that any such goods are defective or deficient.”

Public opinion on the case is also divided. Susan Woodruff, a longtime independent personal shopper for some of Dallas’ well-heeled crowd, says she has worked for Neiman Marcus three times in her career since the 1980s, including the NorthPark store as recently as last year. In fact, she was recruited by Malcolm Reuben once from Stanley Korshak in the mid-’90s. “I trust Malcolm totally, and he’s very fair. I think there’s probably some issue that we don’t know in this case — the way it was done, with everything put in a vault and held for a long time. A return of that size would hurt any store. I’ve spent most of my life working for Neiman’s, and I know they’re always fair and more than generous to their customers.”

Walker seems to be trying to move on with her personal life. She recently purchased a new residence in Highland Park. According to testimony, she is also spending more time with her accountants: “As a result of this little fiasco, we meet and talk a lot. I don’t let things slide anymore.”

Favi Lo and Robert Tennison were still seeing each other, as of their depositions. In fact, Lo said on video that she spent the night with Tennison at his Dallas condominium the night before she testified. That may be harder to do in the future: Tennison testified that he is considering moving to Florida. Walker’s attorney asked Lo in deposition if the two had any plans to marry. Lo’s reply: “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

As for Neiman Marcus’ role in this human drama, a jury is set to decide who pays the price for their employee’s affair. The trial is scheduled for Nov. 5, unless there is a settlement. Ultimately, there may be too much pride and money at stake on both sides of the table to make that an easy sale.

Dallas Morning News staff writer Brooks Egerton contributed to this report.

 

UPDATE: JULY 25, 2013   Neiman Marcus settles contentious lawsuit from high-dollar customer over saleswoman’s affair with her husband

 

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