Guess co-founder Paul Marciano will resign from his role as executive chairman after a special committee completed a four-month investigation into allegations of improper conduct. Allegations against Marciano included claims of inappropriate comments and texts, and unwanted advances, including kissing and groping.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Guess said many of the allegations could not be corroborated. However, the company said the investigation found that on certain occasions “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.”
To avoid the cost of litigation and without admitting liability or fault, Guess and Marciano entered into non-confidential settlement agreements totaling $500,000 with five individuals who had accused 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,” Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who represented four of the women in the settlements, told the New York Times. “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.”
Marciano will be replaced by his brother, Maurice, though he will remain on the board through the end of his contract and receive a salary until the expiration of his contract on Jan. 30, 2019.
Guess launched a special committee comprised of two independent directors to oversee the investigation in February after model Kate Upton told Time Magazine that Marciano verbally harassed and touched her inappropriately when she modeled for the denim label.
“It took a huge toll on my confidence and self-worth. I wanted to quit modeling. I’m sick of being expected to laugh off these aggressive advances and accept the power imbalances that exist,” Upton said at the time. “I’m sick of being expected to endure all of this while being polite and professional through it all.”