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Co-founder of Guess resigns amid $500,000 sexual harassment settlements

BY Marianne Wilson

The #MeToo movement and allegations of misbehavior has cost a legendary figure in fashion retailing his job.

Paul Marciano, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Guess ? Inc. and the subject of a probe into misconduct, resigned as executive chairman following the completion of the investigation, according to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Guess said his resignation was voluntary.

Marciano will transition his chief creative officer duties and other responsibilities to Guess CEO Victor Herrero by Jan. 30, when his contract expires. Guess appointed co-founder Maurice Marciano, the older brother of Paul, as chairman, effective immediately.

The filing revealed that Guess and Marciano entered into settlement agreements totaling $500,000 to resolve claims by five individuals (who were not named) arising out of allegations of inappropriate conduct. Guess said the company and Marciano agreed to the settlements, which are not confidential, “to avoid the cost of litigation and without admitting liability or fault.”

According to the filing, “allegations against Mr. Marciano included claims of inappropriate comments and texts, and unwanted advances including kissing and groping.”

“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 filing said.

The accusations against Marciano started in late January, when supermodel Kate Upton, via social media, accused Marciano of sexually and emotionally harassing women. In February, she told Time magazine that Marciano had sexually harassed and assaulted her during her first professional modeling campaign, when she was 18. Other women consequently stepped forward with allegations of improper conduct.

Guess went on to form a special committee comprised of two independent directors to oversee an investigation into the allegations, which were denied by Marciano. Investigators hired by the board interviewed more than 40 people and reviewed approximately 1.5 million pages of documents, according to the filing.

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