Abercrombie & Fitch’s former CEO, Mike Jeffries, is under scrutiny as BBC Panorama releases a dossier of allegations concerning sexual exploitation. The investigative documentary presents claims of a ‘highly organised network’ using a middleman to recruit young men for Jeffries and his partner, Matthew Smith, allegedly involving sex acts at events held worldwide.
The documentary features interviews with eight men who allege they were exploited at events in various locations, including the United States, London, Paris, Venice, Marrakesh, and the Caribbean. The events reportedly involved sexual activity and cash payments distributed afterward.
Jeffries’ Attorney Responds
Solicitor Brian Bieber, representing Mike Jeffries, stated that his client has no intention of responding to the allegations. Jeffries, who is 79 years old and retired, has historically refrained from commenting on media reports and documentaries related to his personal life. Bieber emphasized that this stance would remain unchanged.
According to the documentary, the men involved in these events claimed they were recruited by a middleman named James Jacobson, who is alleged to have propositioned or sexually ‘auditioned’ them before introducing them to Jeffries and Smith. Some of the men stated that they were misled about the nature of the events or not informed that sexual acts were expected, while others claimed they were aware but not fully informed about what was expected.
The BBC also reported that some men believed they were offered modeling opportunities with Abercrombie & Fitch before meeting Jeffries and Smith. Allegations include the involvement of a personal ‘groomer’ to shave body hair from the attendees and requirements to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Calls for Investigation
Two former US prosecutors, who independently reviewed documents and testimony provided to the BBC, have called for an investigation to determine whether charges related to sex trafficking could be brought. Under US law, sex trafficking includes inducing an adult to travel to another state or country for paid sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
Response from Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie & Fitch, while distancing itself from the alleged behavior, stated that Mike Jeffries’ employment with the company ended in 2014, nearly ten years ago. The company expressed support for those who have raised their voices and engaged an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the issues raised. The current leadership team and board of directors were reportedly unaware of the allegations against Jeffries.
Abercrombie & Fitch reiterated its commitment to a values-driven organization with zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or discrimination.
The allegations have ignited significant discussion and debate, with legal experts considering the possibility of legal action and the burden of proof in such cases. Jeffries and Smith, as well as the middleman Jacobson, have not responded to the BBC’s requests for comment on the allegations.