Guess Co-Founder Paul Marciano resigned as the company's executive chairman on Monday following the conclusion of an investigation of his conduct, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The allegations included claims of "inappropriate comments and texts, and unwanted advances including kissing and groping."
After interviewing more than 40 people and reviewing 1.5 million pages of documents, investigators concluded: "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."
Marciano will remain on the company's board and continue to receive his salary until January 2019, but he was not paid between Feb. 20 and June 11, according to the filing. In anticipation of the expiration of his contract next year Marciano had already begun transitioning his duties to CEO Victor Herrero. Guess did not immediately respond to a request from Retail Dive for more information.
Allegations of inappropriate behavior from Marciano were thrust into the media spotlight after model and actress Kate Upton, who has worked for Guess, accused Marciano of sexual harassment via Twitter in January. By February, aspiring model Miranda Vee had filed a report of sexual harassment against Marciano and real estate developer Mohamed Hadid. That month, Guess announced the formation of a special committee to investigate the allegations, which Marciano has adamantly denied. Now he's leaving the company — for the most part. Marciano will remain on the board and it's unclear how involved he will be in the company going forward.
With momentum still building in the #MeToo movement, corporations are being forced to reckon with the indiscretions of executives and a culture that has allowed some to get away with harassment. Many high-profile cases have led to resignations or firings. In a recent example, Lululemon ousted CEO Laurent Potdevin for improper conduct, which CNBC reported was in part due to a multi-year relationship with a female designer at the company. And just last month, Nike announced an exodus of top executives amid its ongoing culture review at the company.
Attention to these cases and others have forced companies to take a closer look at corporate culture and the treatment of employees. "The employee experience is becoming far more important," S. Chris Edmonds, CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group, told Retail Dive in an interview. "The #MeToo movement has been tremendously powerful, and I'm hoping we have turned a corner where there is going to be greater conversations about it."
Conversations and training aren't enough though, he argues. Instead, companies need to think hard about the core values they want to instill and the behaviors associated with them. In order to truly revamp a culture though, it's critical that executives lead by example, Edmonds said. For many companies, that means removing people in power like Marciano.