A class-action lawsuit filed against Abercrombie & Fitch in a New York federal court on Friday alleges that the clothing brand aided and abetted its former CEO, Michael Jeffries, in his systematic sexual exploitation of aspiring male models. The lawsuit, brought by dozens of alleged victims of Jeffries, names not only Jeffries himself, but also his longtime partner, Matthew Smith, and the Jeffries Family Office LLC. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Abercrombie & Fitch was fully aware of its executives’ predatory behavior and even allowed Jeffries “unfettered access to corporate funds” to pay off his victims.
According to the lawsuit, Jeffries, with the assistance of modeling scouts, would approach attractive young men and offer them the opportunity to become the face of Abercrombie & Fitch. These men would be treated to shopping trips and then sent to various locations, including Jeffries’ Hamptons estate, where they would be sexually abused under the pretense of legitimate modeling auditions. The suit alleges that each model was forced to take drugs and participate in sex acts with Jeffries and others, all under Jeffries’ direction. Over 100 men were allegedly victimized in this way.
The lawsuit also claims that Abercrombie & Fitch financially benefited from this sex trafficking venture. By employing male models who were groomed through sexual exploitation, the company was able to promote its brand image while keeping Jeffries happy and productive. During his tenure as CEO, Jeffries transformed Abercrombie & Fitch from a struggling brand into a billion-dollar industry leader, with the company’s image characterized by a heavy emphasis on sex.
Jeffries was hired as CEO in 1992 by Leslie Wexner, the founder of The Limited and former owner of Victoria’s Secret. Wexner, who was the only known financial advisory client of deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, mentored Jeffries as he revitalized the brand. The lawsuit alleges that Wexner encouraged Jeffries to create a brand that “sizzles with sex.” This transformation allegedly involved the sexual exploitation of aspiring male models, with Abercrombie & Fitch benefitting financially from the resulting promotion of its brand.
Abercrombie & Fitch has denied knowledge of Jeffries’ alleged sexual misconduct. In response to a BBC report earlier this month in which eight men described how Jeffries and Smith had sexually exploited them, the company stated that it was “not aware of the allegations” and emphasized that Jeffries and his team had left the company over a decade ago.
The class-action lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch shines a spotlight on the alleged complicity of the clothing brand in the sexual exploitation of aspiring male models by its former CEO, Michael Jeffries. The plaintiffs claim that Abercrombie & Fitch was fully aware of Jeffries’ actions and even supported them financially. The lawsuit seeks to hold both Jeffries and Abercrombie & Fitch accountable for the harm caused to the alleged victims.