By: Nessa Purdy
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently accused the former CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F), Mike Jeffries, of sexually exploiting and coercing men in a series of events between 2009 and 2015. In a two-year BBC investigation led by Rianna Croxford, eight men who attended the events claimed a middleman recruited them for these parties, whom the BBC identified as James Jacobson.
Jeffries stepped down from his position as CEO in 2014 following a series of allegations regarding discrimination of A&F models based on race and physical appearance. He ran the clothing company for over two decades, during which he transformed it into a thriving brand for teens, known for its provocative marketing and sexual advertisements.
Beginning in 2009, Jeffries and his partner Mathew Smith recruited aspiring models to attend sex parties in Paris, London, Venice, New York, and Marrakesh. Several men who came forward claimed Jeffries offered them jobs and money to perform sexual acts with or for Jeffries and Smith. Many claimed Jeffries did not tell them about the sexual nature of the events and felt coerced into participating.
An anonymous attendee to Jeffries’ largest event in Marrakesh described to the BBC that Jeffries “took advantage of people in a very vulnerable point in their life.” After refusing to kiss Jeffries, he explained he may have been drugged and assaulted. In interviews with the BBC, a model who attended some of the events, David Bradberry, explained that he was promised meetings with Jeffries if he allowed Jacobson to perform sexual acts on him. Some men who attended these events claimed staff at the parties would hand them envelopes of thousands of dollars after having sex with Jeffries.
Neither Jeffries nor Smith commented on any of the allegations, but Jacobson denied all the claims and said all the men who attended these events did so “with their eyes wide open.” However, throughout the investigation, claims about Jeffries and Smith drugging men at these parties surfaced. Bradberry claimed that Jeffries forced him to take poppers, a drug that increases sex drive and causes disorientation. Bradberry explained that Jeffries later had sex with him.
Brad Edwards and Elizabeth Geddes, two former prosecutors, explained that the BBC’s investigation warrants a larger scale investigation about whether or not Jeffries and Smith are liable for charges of sex trafficking and coercion. However, Edwards explained that Jeffries may have grounds to argue that all the men were consenting adults who knew what they were doing.
Fran Horowitz, A&F’s current CEO, explained that the company was “appalled and disgusted” by the allegations towards Jeffries. The company further explained that they do not condone or accept any form of abuse, harassment, or coercion.
(Sources: BBC, The Guardian)