Ex-France Telecom CEO Lombard Charged in Suicide Investigation

Former France Telecom SA Chief Executive Officer Didier Lombard was charged as part of an investigation into employee suicides and depression.

Lombard was charged with mental harassment in the investigation into a complaint by a labor union that France Telecom’s reorganization contributed to psychological issues, said Jean Veil, his lawyer.

France Telecom suspended its restructuring plans in 2009 and Lombard stepped down as CEO in 2010 after more than 30 people killed themselves as the company struggled to cope with intensifying competition. Most of the workers when Lombard left had protected status that made it difficult to fire them and the company instead gave employees meaningless jobs to force them out, driving some to take their own lives, the unions said.

“At no point were these plans conceived and put in place by France Telecom directed against employees,” Lombard wrote in a statement published on the Le Monde website yesterday. “They were meant to save the company and its employees, and to open up new career paths in the new digital world.”

France Telecom will go before the judge leading the inquiry tomorrow, Estelle Ode-Coutard, a spokeswoman, said today, calling the appearance a “normal” part of the investigation.

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