Fast fashion retailer Topshop may be at the forefront of fashion trends, but the brand is now embroiled in an old-fashioned scandal, as the chairman of its UK-based parent company, Arcadia Group, is now the subject of multiple sexual harassment allegations and accusations of racial abuse, brought against him this week.
As reported by Vox, English billionaire Philip Green is the subject of an eight-month investigation published by British newspaper the Telegraph on Tuesday. Though initially obscuring Green’s identity due to a court order, on Thursday, a member of Parliament outed Green as the article’s subject, saying, “What concerned me about this case was wealth, and power that comes with it, and abuse.” He also called Green a “powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying.”
While specific details about the nature of the alleged harassment were not disclosed, the charges drew immediate comparisons to Harvey Weinstein, who also used NDAs to silence his alleged victims. In another troubling development, Green also obtained a gag order against the Telegraph, in an effort to squelch their report.
Green denied the allegations in a statement to the Telegraph, saying:
To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behavior, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations. Arcadia and I take accusations and grievances from employees very seriously and in the event that one is raised, it is thoroughly investigated. Arcadia employs more than 20,000 people and in common with many large businesses sometimes receives formal complaints from employees. In some cases these are settled with the agreement of all parties and their legal advisers. These settlements are confidential so I cannot comment further on them.
As of now, the allegations have yet to be proven, but significant damage has already been done to the images of Green and Arcadia Group. Bolstered by the #MeToo movement, store associates from Arcadia’s companies, which include international brands Topshop, Topman and UK stalwart Miss Selfridge are threatening to quit in protest, and shoppers are calling for boycotts of Arcadia Group.
The issue has also reached Prime Minister Theresa May, who criticized the misuse of NDAs and said the British government would “seek to improve the regulation around non-disclosure agreements and make it absolutely explicit to employees when a non-disclosure agreement does not apply and when it cannot be enforced.”
Speaking on the allegations to Vox, Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, told the site:
While many of the allegations are only claims and have not yet been legally proven, Philip Green’s association with them is highly damaging for both him and the various retail businesses he owns. Unless the claims are proven, beyond all doubt, to be false, then there is no coming back. Quite rightly, the stench of sexual misconduct lingers for life. The sexual abuse of women is not something people forgive or forget, and it will weigh on people’s minds when they decide where to shop.