Newsmaker: Paul Marciano Leaves Guess? Inc. Amid Growth of #MeToo Movement

As the #MeToo anti–sexual harassment movement gained momentum, women across all industries came forward to share their stories and formally accuse the men they say harassed them.

One of the most notable cases within the fashion industry was the accusation made on Jan. 31 by model Kate Upton, who named Guess? Inc. co-founder, chairman and chief creative officer Paul Marciano in a social-media post regarding her own experience as a victim of sexual harassment.

“It’s disappointing that such an iconic women’s brand @GUESS is still empowering Paul Marciano as their creative director,” Upton said in Twitter and Instagram posts that ended with #MeToo. The model followed up her original posts with the statement, “He shouldn’t be allowed to use his power in the industry to sexually and emotionally harass women.”

After denying Upton’s claims of sexual harassment, Marciano stepped down from his duties on Feb. 20 while an investigation was conducted by the board of directors of Guess.

“I have pledged my full cooperation to the company, and I have the utmost confidence in our CEO, Victor Herrero, to continue leading the company during this time,” Marciano said in a statement.

The company’s board appointed two independent directors to a special committee formed to investigate Upton’s allegations of harassment against Marciano. Initially, the investigation was conducted by the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers while the special committee retained the legal services of Glaser Weil. In March, Glaser Weil assumed full control over the investigation after O’Melveny & Myers stepped down.

On June 12, after the investigation was completed, Guess filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission noting that Marciano would resign as executive chairman of the board but would remain a member until Jan. 30, 2019.

“Many of the allegations could not be corroborated,” the report said. “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 report also stated that “without admitting liability or fault” the company and Marciano resolved the inappropriate-conduct claims of five individuals through nonconfidential settlements totaling $500,000.

Maurice Marciano was appointed chairman of the board as his brother Paul Marciano agreed to not renew his employment agreement with Guess after his contract expires on Jan. 30, 2019. The company’s chief executive officer, Victor Herrero, will assume all of Paul Marciano’s responsibilities upon Marciano’s retirement.