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Guess stakeholder calls for removal of co-founders following sexual assault allegations

By Rachel Douglass

Feb 8, 2022

Business

Image: Rachel Murray/ Getty Images via AFP (From left) Paul Marciano and Victor Herrero

Legion Partners Asset Management, a shareholder of fashion retailer Guess, has issued a public letter to the company’s board of directors calling for the removal of the brand’s co-founders and directors Maurice and Paul Marciano, following a string of sexual assault allegations against the latter.

Note: This article contains brief descriptions of sexual assault

Allegations against Paul Marciano have continued to surface over the years, with four new accusations coming to light in this year alone, according to the letter. Now, the investment firm is asking for the brand’s board of directors to consider the removal of both brothers or, alternatively, to not renominate them at the upcoming annual shareholders meeting.

In the letter, the firm said: “As investors, we are deeply concerned by the lack of good judgement the board of directors of Guess have displayed in continuing to allow co-founder Paul Marciano to serve as board member and as chief creative officer of the company. As human beings, we are appalled.”

“It is clear the board must finally act…”

Accusations and reports surrounding, specifically, Paul Marciano’s behaviour have been persistent for over a decade, with as many as nine individuals coming forward detailing negative experiences with the fashion mogul. In 2018, supermodel Kate Upton alleged Marciano assaulted her when she was 18, claiming he groped her and grabbed her breasts. In the same year, and following a half-a-million-dollar settlement to a number of women accusing him of sexual harassment, Marciano stepped down as executive chairman of the board.

Similar reports were brought to light again in early 2021 when a lawsuit filed by an anonymous model accused Guess of enabling her rapist, stating the company was aware of Marciano’s behaviour but did not act on it. She further added that she knew of several other women who had been assaulted or harassed by Marciano over the years.

Legion’s letter goes on to detail past investigations by Guess board members, specifically one initiated in February 2018 that had concluded Marciano had shown “poor judgement” when working with models. Following the announcement that he was to step down in 2019, the board then reversed its decision, despite public outcry, and reinstated him as chief creative officer, which Legion said was “empowering him to continue his alleged predatory behaviour”.

The company concluded: “The result has been multiple new allegations, at least one new settlement and potentially more liability that may not be covered by insurance. It is clear that the board must finally act. We hope that this time, the directors do what is right for all the company’s stakeholders. If it does not, we will continue to make our voice on the matter heard and to exercise all options available to us.”

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