In the latest development in the allegations of misuse of power at the iconic clothing brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, its ex-CEO Mike Jeffries, and his partner Matthew Smith have asked a court to dismiss a sex trafficking lawsuit.
The lawsuit - filed by former model David Bradberry and others in the Southern District of New York - accuses Jeffries and Smith of sex trafficking, sexual misconduct and rape. It also alleges that A&F allowed Jeffries "unfettered access" to corporate resources - including a jet, transportation, and unlimited amounts of cash - to facilitate a "sex trafficking venture" while he was CEO of the company.
In their submission to have the lawsuit dismissed, Jeffries says that the claims fall outside statute of limitations, and are "meritless", while A&F says the lawsuit fails to show it knew about the alleged exploitation, and that it therefore cannot be held liable.
Separate to the civil lawsuit being brought by David Bradberry, it's been reported that the FBI has begun an investigation, with agents already interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses.
How did we get here?
Allegations against Jeffries and Smith first surfaced in October 2023 when several men went public with allegations of sexual exploitation at Abercrombie events during the period 2009-2015. The parties specified were held in London, Paris, Marrakech, and the US.
According to the allegations, Jeffries and Smith would engage in sexual contact with the young men or order the men to have sex with each other. All men involved reported being paid after the events.
The men making the allegations explained that they were recruited for the Abercrombie events by a middleman hired by Jeffries and Smith. The middleman allegedly sexually auditioned the men by requesting oral sex or performing it on them.
There seemed to be varying experiences as to what the men making the allegations thought that they were applying for. Some said that they were told that sex would not be expected, others said that they were deceived about the nature of the event that they were attending, others indicated that the prospect of being booked for modelling work for Abercrombie was used to recruit them to attend the events.
One man believes that he was drugged and raped during one of the Abercrombie parties.
Who is Mike Jeffries?
Jeffries was CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch from 1992 to 2014. He is credited with building the clothing brand into an iconic retailer - hugely popular with young shoppers in the 90s and early 2000s.
He stepped down in 2014 following declining sales and left with a retirement package valued at around USD$25m.