Abercrombie & Fitch investigates sexual misconduct allegations against former CEO

young women pause with their Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bags on the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue in New York. July 10, 2012
young women pause with their Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bags on the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue in New York. July 10, 2012 Copyright Kathy Willens/AP
By James Thomas
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The former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch and his partner face allegations that they exploited men at sex events they hosted around the world.


Fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has launched an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct against its former CEO Mike Jeffries, in which he allegedly exploited men at sex events in luxurious hotels worldwide.

An Abercrombie & Fitch spokesperson said that the company is "appalled and disgusted" by Jeffries' alleged behaviour, uncovered by a BBC investigation, and that their thoughts are with those "who bravely raised their voices".

The company has engaged an external law firm to conduct an independent probe into the issues raised, which its current executive leadership and board of directors were not aware of, according to the spokesperson, 

"We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind," the spokesperson added.

An alleged network of abuse

The BBC investigation uncovered allegations of an organised network that used a middleman to recruit young men for events with Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith, in which some of the men claim they were abused.

Jeffries and Smith allegedly exploited the men for sex at events they hosted in luxurious hotels around the world, including London, Paris and Venice.

The BBC said that 12 men described attending or organising the events, which involved sex acts, between 2009 and 2015. Jeffries stepped down as CEO in 2014 following declining sales and left with a retirement package valued at around $25 million (€23.8 million), according to company filings at the time.

Mark Lennihan/AP
In this Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 photo, Michael S. Jeffries, former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, speaks at the annual National Retail Federation conference in New YorkMark Lennihan/AP

The eight men who attended the events said they were recruited by a middleman with a missing nose covered with a snakeskin patch. The BBC claims it has identified him as James Jacobson.

Some of the men alleged they were initially misled about the nature of the events or not told that sex was involved, according to the BBC, while others said they understood the events would be sexual but that the full details of what was expected of them were withheld. All of them were paid, the BBC said.

Jacobson has denied any wrongdoing and said the men went into the events "with their eyes wide open".

Jeffries and Smith have not publicly responded to the allegations.

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