L Brands Agrees to New Policies Tied to Sexual Harassment Claims
L Brands, owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, will release current and former employees from nondisclosure agreements related to allegations of sexual harassment and take action to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the framework of a settlement with shareholders announced on Friday.
The company, which plans to split Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works into two public companies next week, said each brand will spend $ 45 million each over the next five years to fund their new policies. Other changes include the creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion council and an overhaul of internal policies and training on sexual harassment and discrimination. The company will also exempt complaints of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and related reprisals from compulsory arbitration.
The settlement follows allegations by shareholders, including the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, that L Brands officers and directors breached their fiduciary duties by fostering a culture of misogyny in the company, especially around models, and maintaining ties with Jeffrey Epstein, the criminal sex who was close to Leslie H. Wexner, the former CEO of L Brands.
L Brands formed a special committee last year to investigate the allegations. The committee was chaired by two independent women members of the board of directors and involved a different law firm than the regular legal advisers of the company.
“When our state invests public pension funds in a business, we have a duty to make sure our investments are sound – and the board acts in our best interests,” said Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General of Oregon, in a statement. “There was a clear trend at L Brands of a board of directors that allowed key leaders to use their power to promote a culture of fear, discrimination and harassment.”
The resolution comes as Victoria’s Secret attempts the most ambitious brand turnaround in recent memory. The company told the New York Times in June that it is phasing out the Angels from Victoria’s Secret and is bringing in a new group of women to represent the label, including Megan Rapinoe, the pink-haired football star and activist for the gender equality; and Paloma Elsesser, the biracial role model and advocate for inclusiveness. She also plans to update her product line, make her stores brighter and brighter, and ultimately “stop focusing on what men want and focus on what women want.” according to Martin Waters, general manager of the brand.
Victoria’s Secret has reorganized its management team and women occupy all but one seat on its new board.
Mr Wexner, a retail billionaire who is considered the modern founder of Victoria’s Secret, and his wife, Abigail, left the L Brands board earlier this year. The brand has come under intense scrutiny since Mr. Wexner’s close ties to Mr. Epstein came to light in 2019 and a Times investigation showed Mr. Wexner and his former chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, chaired a strong culture of misogyny, intimidation and harassment.
#Brands #Agrees #Policies #Tied #Sexual #Harassment #Claims