Ex-CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch ‘vehemently denies’ sex trafficking allegations
A request has been made by the US company Abercrombie & Fitch, along with its former CEO Mike Jeffries and his associate Matthew Smith, to have a sex trafficking lawsuit dismissed.
Mr. Jeffries contends that the allegations exceed the statute of limitations and lack merit.
Abercrombie & Fitch argues that the lawsuit fails to demonstrate awareness of the alleged exploitation and asserts that it cannot be held accountable.
The lawsuit, filed in October, claimed that the company had financially supported a “criminal enterprise” led by Mr. Jeffries for over two decades.
It further alleged that Abercrombie & Fitch provided Mr. Jeffries unrestricted access to corporate resources, including a jet, transportation, and unlimited cash, facilitating a “sex trafficking venture” during his tenure as CEO.
The legal complaint, initiated by former model David Bradberry and others in the Southern District of New York, accused Mr. Jeffries and his British partner, Mr. Smith, of sex trafficking, sexual misconduct, and rape.
The allegations surfaced following a BBC investigation into claims that Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Smith exploited men for sex at events worldwide, including in New York, London, and Marrakesh.
In response to the legal action, documents submitted by Mr. Jeffries’ legal team vehemently deny all allegations and urge the court to focus on the legal deficiencies in the complaint, seeking its dismissal.
A separate filing on behalf of Mr. Smith also seeks dismissal, citing that the alleged events occurred in 2010 and are time-barred since 2011. This document contends that the claim lacks specific, factual details regarding any alleged sexual offenses by Mr. Smith.
A&F filed a separate response, arguing that the retailer had no knowledge of the “supposed trafficking venture” or alleged sexual misconduct, and “up until the moment that the BBC’s reporting was released in October 2023, there was nothing public about the allegations against Jeffries”.
The document claims: “As Jeffries himself stated through counsel in response to the BBC’s reports, the allegations ‘relate to his personal life’ and – to the extent they occurred – were carried out separate and apart from his work at A&F.”
“A&F abhors sexual abuse and condemns the alleged conduct by Jeffries and others described in the complaint in the strongest possible terms. But nothing in the complaint plausibly alleges that the company was aware of, participated in, or had anything to do with the exploitation alleged by the plaintiff, or that A&F can be held liable for it now,” the company adds.
A&F also argues that the lawsuit “does not provide any facts supporting its conclusory and unsupported allegation that A&F provided compensation to victims of alleged Jeffries’ sexual abuse”.
Separate from the civil lawsuit, the BBC understands that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation and that FBI agents have been interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses.
Mike Jeffries is considered the modern-day founder of A&F after he transformed the brand in the 1990s from a failing heritage outfitter into a multi-billion-dollar teen retailer.
He stepped down in 2014 following declining sales and left with a retirement package valued at around $25m (£20.5m), part of which has now been suspended, the company says.