According to a BBC investigation, former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) Mike Jeffries is accused of sexually exploiting young men for sex.
Abercrombie & Fitch ex-CEO faces claims of exploitation by men recruited to sex events he hosted around the world – BBC investigation https://t.co/rHzFNZ7cOH
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) October 2, 2023
Jeffries helmed A&F from 1992 to 2014, overseeing a significant transformation that propelled the brand into the mainstream and turned it into a multi-billion-dollar retailer with over 850 stores worldwide. He was once one of the highest-paid CEOs in the United States.
Jeffries — Abercrombie & Fitch’s “modern-day founder,” as the company described him — stepped down in 2014 following declining sales. The BBC reports that, according to company filings, he left with a $25m retirement package.
The sexual exploitation allegations surfaced as part of a two-year investigation by the BBC, revealing a network allegedly orchestrated by Jeffries and his partner, Matthew Smith. The alleged exploitation involved eight young men and happened at sex events hosted globally between 2009 and 2015.
Before being introduced to Jeffries and Smith, most of the men who spoke to BBC about their recruitment say that a middleman was purportedly hired to recruit participants and sexually “audit” them by offering or requesting oral sex.
Several say they were promised modeling opportunities, half say they were “initially misled about the nature of the events or not told sex was involved;” others say they “understood the events would be sexual, but not exactly what was expected of them.” All of the men who spoke to BBC were paid.
After years of silence, men speak about alleged sexual exploitation by the former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch.#WorldofSecrets: Season 1 – The Abercrombie Guys | Listen on BBC Sounds https://t.co/hHVGi7Pija pic.twitter.com/RnY94bUeJg
— BBC Sounds (@BBCSounds) October 4, 2023
How is Abercrombie & Fitch responding?
Responding to the allegations, A&F, a brand known for its provocative advertising and preppy image, released a statement shortly after the BBC published its investigation.
The company, “appalled and disgusted” by the reported behavior of their former CEO, said it wasn’t aware of the misconduct and that it has already hired an external law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the accusations.
“Since being contacted by the BBC, we have engaged an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the issues raised,” A&F said. “The company’s current executive leadership team and board of directors were not aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Jeffries.”
“We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind,” they added.
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The BBC points out that there is no evidence that the company was aware of the allegations of exploitation at sex events.
However, the BBC’s investigation also revealed that a pension fund invested in the company had legal proceedings claiming that A&F paid out settlements after previous allegations of “misconduct” by Jeffries.
BBC’s source said the documents he had seen didn’t reveal the kind of misconduct but that they included “payoffs for staff and agency workers who had complained about Mr Jeffries’ behaviour.”
In their statement, A&F underlined that they haven’t been affiliated with Jeffries for almost 10 years:
“For close to a decade, a new executive leadership team and refreshed board of directors have successfully transformed our brands and culture into the values-driven organization we are today.”
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Abercrombie & Fitch Sign at the store in Munich, Germany, August 26, 2018. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.