After being the subject of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault, Paul Marciano has resigned from his position as executive chairman of Guess Inc.’s board, according to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Mr. Marciano, who will be replaced by his brother Maurice Marciano, will remain on the board through the end of his contract. Mr. Marciano, a founder of the company, had forfeited his salary during the period of the investigation, but will receive a salary from June 11 until the expiration of his contract on Jan. 30, 2019.
According to the filing, “allegations against Mr. Marciano included claims of inappropriate comments and texts, and unwanted advances including kissing and groping.” During the last several months, investigators who were hired by the board interviewed more than 40 people and reviewed approximately 1.5 million pages of documents, the filing said.
Guess and Mr. Marciano signed nonconfidential settlement agreements for the amount of $500,000 with five women who had accused Mr. Marciano of sexual harassment. “This was a very powerful man whose pattern, according to my clients, was reaching out to women who were aspiring models, getting them very hopeful that they were going to get a job as the next Guess girl, groping their breasts and when they rebuffed him, of course they didn’t get a job,” said Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who represented four of the women in the settlements. “A person who would do that is not fit to serve. Guess is a company that primarily sells to women and should be making a strong statement condemning his behavior.”
“The investigation found that on certain occasions Mr. Marciano exercised poor judgment in his communications with models and photographers and in placing himself in situations in which plausible allegations of improper conduct could, and did, arise,” the filing said.
The investigation into Mr. Marciano’s behavior began after Kate Upton, an actor and three-time Sports Illustrated cover model, took to Instagram and Twitter to accuse Mr. Marciano of sexual and emotional harassment in January. After she posted, her social media pages were flooded with hundreds of comments. Among them were messages of support from women who said they had also had inappropriate experiences at the company or with Mr. Marciano.
A week later, Time.com posted an interview with Ms. Upton. In it, she said that Mr. Marciano had grabbed her breasts, thighs, shoulders and other body parts, and kissed her face and neck during a meeting after her first photo shoot with Guess. After Ms. Upton’s story went public on Feb. 7, 2018, Guess quickly announced that the company was forming a special committee to investigate her claims, and a little over a week after the announcement, Mr. Marciano temporarily stepped away from his daily responsibilities as the chief creative director of Guess and executive chairman of the company’s board.
One of the women who felt encouraged to come forward after Ms. Upton’s story was published was Miranda Vazquez, who said that in March of last year, Mr. Marciano invited her to an apartment in Los Angeles under the pretense of reviewing her portfolio. Instead, she said, he assaulted her. In February, Ms. Vazquez, accompanied by her attorney Ms. Bloom, filed a report about the incident with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mr. Marciano has been accused of sexual harassment in the past as well. In 2009, Lindsey Ring, a former fit model for Guess, filed suit against Mr. Marciano in Los Angeles. The suit said that, beginning in May 2008, Mr. Marciano “began to create a hostile work environment for Ms. Ring by making sexual comments to her, repeatedly touching her inappropriately and without her consent, and attempting on at least two occasions to fondle her sexually after taking her to a private area at the worksite.”
Ms. Ring said that she was “terrified to speak up,” though she eventually did report the matter to human resources. She said it was not resolved and left the company in early 2009. Ms. Ring’s attorneys filed a dismissal of the case in December of 2009, which could indicate a settlement.
Ms. Bloom expressed satisfaction that the settlements reached with Guess and Mr. Marciano did not include a nondisclosure clause, as many of these types of agreements have in the past. This allows any of the five women involved to speak publicly about their experience if they wish to in the future.
“They have a voice if they want to use it,” Ms. Bloom said. “Right now they’re opting not to. I know that often as women get older, we get stronger. We want to tell our stories when the time is right for us.”
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