For the second time in just over a year, L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has hired another law firm to investigate ties between its billionaire founder Les Wexner’s and the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
L Brands first enlisted the services of the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell shortly after Epstein’s arrest in July last year, when revelations about the influence he over Wexner’s fortune and how he may have used his link to the retail magnate to prey on women came to light.
The company moved quickly to announce it had hired the firm to conduct a ‘thorough review’ of the matter, however no findings of the probe have yet been released publicly, nearly 16-months on.
A number of former Victoria’s Secret employees, including two who said they shared direct interactions with Epstein, told the New York Times they were never even contacted by lawyers, bringing into question the scope of the investigation.
However, the Times understands that a second inquiry has now begun at the company, following a lawsuit filed by a shareholder in May that complained Davis Polk was too close to L Brands to be independent and impartial. Polk has reportedly provided the company with legal counsel for a number of years and Wexner’s wife, Abigail, was formerly employed at his firm.
L Brands first enlisted the services of a law firm shortly after Jeffrey Epstein’s (right) arrest in July last year, when revelations about his influence over Wexner’s (left) fortune and how he may have used his link to the retail magnate to prey on women came to light.
The company moved swiftly to delicate it had hired the firm to conduct a ‘thorough review’ of the matter, however no findings of the probe have yet been released publicly, nearly 16-months on
The shareholder, who wasn’t identified in the Times’ report, said they requested that the board replace Polk or hire another firm as a ‘check’ for its review into the extent of Wexner and Epstein’s relationship.
Last month, a number of current and former employees were then contacted by a new lawyer, Sarah K. Eddy, a partner in the litigation department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
The second investigation was reportedly launched at the behest of L Brands board members, Chairwoman Sarah Nash (above), and Anne Sheehan
Eddy reportedly informed the employees that she was commencing a separate investigation on behalf of L Brands board members, Chairwoman Sarah Nash, and Anne Sheehan.
The lawyer said her firm was investigating ‘allegations raised in shareholder demand letters and civil complaints concerning, among other things, connections between L Brands and Jeffrey Epstein,’ an email obtained by the Times states.
Shareholder complaints have also raised concerns about allegations and of misconduct and workplace harassment at L Brands and Victoria’s Secret. It’s likely that Eddy’s firm is also investigating those issues as well, according to the Times.
Nash, formerly of JPMorgan, and Sheehan, a corporate governance expert, joined the board last year following a request from investors to diversify its boardroom with fewer directors with personal ties to Wexner.
The new investigation comes as the latest embattlement for L Brands and Victoria’s Secret, just months after the pandemic thwarted the company’s attempts to sell off the declining lingerie giant to a private-equity firm.
Ever since Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan prison cell last August, 83-year-old Wexner has routinely sought to distance himself from the former financier
Jeffrey Epstein is seen at the first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the Plaza Hotel in 1995
Ever since Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan prison cell last August, 83-year-old Wexner has routinely sought to distance himself from the former financier.
But Wexner himself, and L Brands, have come under fierce scrutiny for allegedly ignoring rampant sexual harassment of the line’s ‘Angel’ models and other misconduct within the company.
Along with his former right-hand man, former chief marketing officer Ed Razek, Wexner was accused of presiding ‘over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment’ according to a February Times report.
The Times cited interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.
The report said that Wexner appeared to turn a blind eye to complaints that Razek harassed Angels including Bella Hadid, and seemed to do nothing about his former associate, the late sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, attempting to recruit women.
On multiple occasions, Wexner was allegedly heard demeaning women, and Razek is accused of more outrageous behavior.
In 2018, supermodel Bella Hadid was being fitted at the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show when Razek said ‘forget the panties,’ according to three people present.
Sitting on a couch, he also wondered aloud whether the TV network would allow her to walk ‘down the runway with those perfect t***ies,’ the people said — though one disagreed and believes he said ‘perfect breasts.’
At the same fitting, Razek placed his hand on another model’s underwear-covered crotch, three people said.
A human resources complaint was filed over Razek detailing more than a dozen allegations, the Times reported.
At castings, Razek sometimes asked models in their bras and underwear for their phone numbers, according to three people who witnessed his alleged advances. He urged others to sit on his lap.
Wexner declined to comment on the allegations last year, however Razek strenuously denied them, telling the Times: ‘The accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context.’
Along with his former right-hand man, former chief marketing officer Ed Razek (right), Wexner was accused of presiding ‘over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment’ according to a February Times report
Wexner declined to comment on the allegations last year, however Razek strenuously denied them, telling the Times: ‘The accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context
Wexner stepped down as CEO and Chairman of L Brands in May, but the vast majority of Victoria’s Secret’s leaders are still men who were either hired or promoted by Wexner.
Among them is Stuart Burgdoerfer, L Brands’ chief financial officer for more than a decade, who was promoted to become interim CEO of Victoria’s Secret in May. Employees at the time voiced scepticism over how his appointment would help to improve the company’s culture.
Among them is Stuart Burgdoerfer (above), L Brands’ chief financial officer for more than a decade, who was promoted to become interim CEO of Victoria’s Secret in May. Employees at the time voiced scepticism over how his appointment would improve the company’s culture
Two years ago, Burgdoerfer was reportedly involved in an extra-marital affair with an L Brands employee. Amidst the affair, fliers with their photos were reportedly placed over car windshields in the company parking lot, with the words: ‘Hope you two can buy enough lingerie to make up for the damage you caused your families!!!,’ accompanying the image.
According to the Times, the matter was never addressed internally. Burgdoerfer and the employee, who left the company last year, later married.
Until last year, Wexner enjoyed a stellar reputation as the longest-serving CEO in the S&P 500 and was regarded a major force in helping to shape the American mall. However, the unearthing of his ties to Epstein have since tarnished his public image.
Epstein, who ran a purported hedge fund, never had any publicly disclosed clients as a money manager, other than the billionaire Wexner.
Last year, Wexner accused Epstein of misappropriating ‘vast sums’ of his fortune while managing his personal finances, and said he had cut ties with Epstein a decade prior.
‘I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced, and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path,’ Wexner wrote in a letter to members of his charitable foundation, which focuses on the development of Jewish professional and volunteer leaders.
Wexner (shown left with wife Abigail) is also known passed on some of his major assets to Epstein, including the Manhattan mansion where he hosted his infamous parties, a private plane and a luxury estate in Ohio
The Manhattan mansion Wexler gave to Epstein is shown in the above image
Wexner is also known passed on some of his major assets to Epstein, including the Manhattan mansion where he hosted his infamous parties, a private plane and a luxury estate in Ohio.
For over a decade, from 1995 through 2006, Epstein lied to aspiring models that he worked for Victoria’s Secret and could help them land gigs, according to the Times.
‘I had spent all of my savings getting Victoria’s Secret lingerie to prepare for what I thought would be my audition,’ a woman identified as Jane Doe said in a statement read aloud last year in a federal court hearing in the Epstein case.
‘But instead it seemed like a casting call for prostitution. I felt like I was in hell,’ she said.
Three L Brands executives told the Times that Wexner was alerted to Epstein’s sick and predatory behavior as early as the mid-1990s — but that there was no sign he ever took action.
Source: Daily Mail