Abercrombie & Fitch suspends payments to its former CEO following sex trafficking allegations

Abercrombie & Fitch suspends payments to its former CEO following sex trafficking allegations

  • By Rhianna Croxford, investigative reporter
  • BBC News and BBC Panorama

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The US lawsuit accuses former Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries of rape

Abercrombie & Fitch says it has stopped providing additional retirement income to its former boss following sex trafficking allegations.

On top of his standard pension, Mike Jeffries has been receiving lifetime bonuses totaling around $1 million (£801,000) a year.

Then a lawsuit accused the American retailer of financing a sex trafficking operation.

The brand told the BBC it has now suspended additional superannuation payments to Mr Jefferies.

A BBC Panorama documentary and podcast series found a highly organized network using an intermediary to recruit men for events around the world with Mike Jeffries and his British partner Matthew Smith.

The BBC spoke to eight men who attended these events, which took place in London, New York, Marrakesh and other cities, and some alleged that they had been exploited or abused.

In the weeks that followed, Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) was accused in a civil suit of financing a “criminal enterprise” led by Mike Jeffries and Mr Smith between 1992 and 2014.

The court papers allege that more than 100 men were likely to have been sexually assaulted by Mr Jeffries while he was chief executive and that young men were manipulated “under the guise of providing them with the modeling opportunity of their dreams – to become Abercrombie models”.

It also alleges that corporate funds and resources were used to “facilitate” a “sex trafficking enterprise.”

The company told the BBC that it does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Through his lawyer, Mr Jeffries also declined to comment, with his lawyer saying: “The courtroom is where we will deal with this matter.”

Smith never responded to BBC requests for comment.

More on this story

If you’re in the UK: Watch Panorama’s Abercrombie Men: The Dark Side of Cool, On BBC iPlayer now And listen to the podcast series, World of Secrets: Season 1 – Abercrombie Men On BBC Sounds.

If you are in the United States: Abercrombie Men: The Dark Side of Cool Available to watch BBC Select.

And if you’re outside the UK, listen to the podcast series, World of Secrets: Season 1 – Abercrombie MenWherever you get your podcasts.

Mike Jeffries is the modern founder of A&F, who turned the brand from a failed sporting goods chain into a multi-billion-dollar retailer targeting teenagers.

During his two decades in the role since the 1990s, he has led the company’s global expansion and created sub-brands including Hollister and Gilly Hicks.

Jefferies resigned in 2014 after sales declined and left with a retirement package worth around $25m (£20.5m), according to company filings at the time.

As part of that package, A&F said it is entitled to lifetime monthly payments totaling about $1 million annually, filings add.

The company’s voluntary retirement benefit – known as the Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan – is in addition to his standard pension. Records show Mr. Jeffries was receiving payments as recently as this year.

A&F said supplemental retirement plan payments to Mr. Jefferies have been suspended but it could not comment further due to pending litigation.

In a statement after the BBC’s initial investigation, the company said it had hired an “external law firm” to independently investigate the allegations raised.

She added that the brand’s current executive leadership team and board were “unaware of allegations of sexual misconduct” by Mr Jefferies and that they have “zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind”.

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