Abercrombie & Fitch Launches Investigation into Former CEO Mike Jeffries Over Allegations of Misconduct

Abercrombie & Fitch Initiates Investigation into Ex-CEO

Clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch has taken the step of appointing an “outside law firm” to investigate disturbing allegations of grooming and other sexual offenses attributed to its former CEO, Mike Jeffries.

These allegations were featured in a BBC documentary broadcast in the UK on Monday night. The documentary claims that Jeffries and his partner, Matthew Smith, organized sex events worldwide, where young men were coerced into engaging in intimate acts.

Twelve men came forward for the documentary, with some reporting deception regarding the nature of the events and fear of repercussions for their careers.

Mike Jeffries’ Role at Abercrombie & Fitch

Mike Jeffries served as Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO from the 1990s until 2014.

During his tenure, he transformed the brand from a struggling clothing company into one of the most fashionable and sought-after brands in the United States.

However, Jeffries faced accusations of discrimination, extravagance, and allowing his partner, Matthew Smith, to wield influence over the company.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s Response to Allegations

Following the documentary’s release, Abercrombie & Fitch issued an official statement expressing its profound dismay at the allegations.

The company’s current management declared its “zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or discrimination of any kind.”

While the statement condemns the alleged conduct, it remains unclear whether criminal charges will be pursued in the United States as a result of the documentary.

Accusations and Recruitment Methods

The alleged victims claim that they were recruited for the events by a middleman identified as James Jacobson, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Jacobson wore a patch over his nose, citing a botched surgery. Prospective models were allegedly promised opportunities with Abercrombie & Fitch before meeting Jeffries and Smith.

Pressured into Compliance

One individual, David Bradberry, shared his experience, stating that he was introduced to Jacobson by an agent who implied that meeting Jeffries was essential for his career.

Bradberry recounted feeling paralyzed when Jacobson insinuated that performing oral sex on him was a condition for meeting Abercrombie & Fitch and Mike Jeffries.

The promise of fame seemed to come at the price of compliance.

Events at Jeffries’ Former Home

Bradberry accepted an invitation to an event at Jeffries’ former residence in the Hamptons.

He described receiving an Abercrombie & Fitch gift card to purchase an outfit for the occasion, which made the event appear official.

At the event, Bradberry claimed that Jeffries used a drug called “poppers” on him, leading to sexual contact.

Detailed Allegations

Men who attended these events disclosed that they witnessed Mike Jeffries and Matthew Smith engaging in sexual activities with multiple men or directing them to have sex with each other.

After these encounters, the men allegedly received envelopes filled with thousands of dollars in cash.

Call for Investigation

The BBC reported that two former US prosecutors independently reviewed documents and testimonies, calling for an investigation into whether charges related to sex trafficking should be filed.

Sex trafficking under US law involves getting adults to travel across state or national borders for paid sexual activity through force, fraud, or coercion.

Additional Accusations and Non-Disclosure Agreements

The documentary also unveiled allegations that recruiters received fees ranging from $500 to $1,000 per individual.

Some men were propositioned or subjected to “auditions” involving oral sex before meeting Jeffries. Personal grooming practices, non-disclosure agreements, and the fear of legal consequences were reported aspects of these events.

A Shift in Demographics

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Legal Considerations

Legal experts have weighed in on the allegations, with some suggesting potential coercion and others highlighting the challenge of proving criminal charges.

While coercion could involve harm in various forms, including reputational and financial, the burden of proof for prosecutors is considered “very high.”

Response from Jacobson

James Jacobson, the middleman accused of recruiting participants, vehemently denied allegations of coercive or deceptive behavior.

He asserted that everyone attending the events did so willingly and with awareness.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s Stance

A spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch expressed deep disapproval of the allegations against Mike Jeffries.

The company emphasized that Jeffries’ association with the brand ended in 2014, nearly ten years ago. Abercrombie & Fitch has engaged an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations and maintains a commitment to a values-driven organization with zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or discrimination.

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