L Brands Settles Workplace Misconduct Claims
Columbus-based L Brands said it has reached a settlement over shareholder claims of workplace misconduct that were filed shortly after a New York Times investigation of Victoria's Secret.
The February 2020 two-part expose of the lingerie company accused L Brands founder and then-CEO Les Wexner and former executive Ed Razek of permitting a sexist and unsafe work environment within the company's flagship brand. The Times reported that the two men "presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment." The story also claimed employees were punished if they spoke out about the workplace culture.
The Times also reported that three L Brands executives said Wexner appeared to fail to act on accusations that his late former financial advisor Jeffrey Epstein told aspiring models he worked for Victoria's Secret and later assaulted them. L Brands has faced scrutiny due to the billionaire owner's ties to the accused child sex trafficker, who died by suicide in 2019.
Wexner announced his retirement about two weeks after the investigation was published.
The board quickly apologized and promised reforms, which were announced Friday.
The company will set up a diversity, equity and inclusion council, and strengthen policies on reporting and investigating claims of sexual harassment. Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works will spend $45 million each over the next five years to fund the reforms.
Plans to sell Victoria’s Secret to a private equity firm fell apart last year over store closures early in the pandemic. Instead the brand will become its own independent, publicly-traded company on Monday.