Fashion brand Guess said Tuesday that co-founder Paul Marciano has resigned as executive chairman and will leave next year in the wake of the company's sexual harassment investigation.
Los-Angeles-based Guess said in a corporate filing that Marciano "exercised poor judgment in his communications with models and photographers" and put himself in situations "in which plausible allegations of improper conduct could, and did, arise."
The conclusions were based on findings of a special committee Guess appointed to probe the allegations.
Guess' statement said allegations included "inappropriate comments and texts and unwanted advances including kissing and groping." Guess also said Marciano and the company reached settlements totaling $500,000 with five of those who made the allegations.
The settlements are non-confidential, which means the victims are not barred from speaking out. Guess said the company and Marciano agreed to the settlements "to avoid the cost of litigation and without admitting liability or fault."
Many of the other allegations against Marciano could not be confirmed because the accusers either declined to be interviewed or provided insufficient information to investigators, Guess said. In other cases, "credible accounts were given by both sides," the company said.
Although none of those receiving settlements were named in the company's filing, supermodel Kate Upton was one of those who went public with allegations against Marciano. She said that during a 2010 Guess lingerie photo session, Marciano aggressively kissed her, repeatedly tried to see her in her hotel room and forcibly grabbed a breast.
"After I pushed him away, he said, 'I’m making sure they’re real,'" she said in an interview with Time. She was 18 at the time and on her first modeling assignment, she told Time.
Guess rose to fashion fame as a maker of high-end jeans and sportswear that were advertised with splashy magazine ads featuring young model, often in sexy poses.
Saying she represented four of the five women, attorney Lisa Bloom noted Marciano's resignation in a tweet and said that the victims had "detailed for Guess lawyers their sexual assault stories."
She added: "Delighted this day has arrived."
Marciano is the latest in a string of prominent man whose careers have been derailed by confirmed allegations of inappropriate conduct. Others include film industry giant Harvey Weinstein, celebrity chef Mario Batali, and comedian Louis C.K..
The #Me Too movement, an international drive against sexual harassment and assault, has inspired many victims to break their silence about long-hidden incidents and call for justice.
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Guess said Marciano's decision to give up the executive chairman post was voluntary and that he will remain on the clothing firm's board until his employment agreement expires on January 30, 2019.
He will be paid during that time, but he forfeited his salary from Feb. 20 until June 11, Guess said.
Marciano will help shift his duties and responsibilities to Guess CEO Victor Herrero during the coming months, Guess said.