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NYT Report Shows Culture of Sexual Harassment at Victoria’s Secret

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  • The New York Times published a report accusing executives at Victoria’s Secret of inappropriate behavior including touching models over their underwear, asking them to sit on their laps, and making crass comments.
  • Some of the women who complained believed they were punished for speaking out.
  • Victoria’s Secret recently made headlines because Leslie Wexner, an executive and major player in the NYT report, was associated with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein allegedly pretended to be a Victoria’s Secret recruiter to lure in aspiring models.
  • This report also comes at a time where Victoria’s Secret’s future looks unclear. The company recently canceled its famous fashion show, and critics have been slamming its outdated depiction of women.

Allegations in NYT Report

Regular instances of sexual harassment by top executives have dictated the culture at Victoria’s Secret, a new New York Times report alleges. 

The Times spoke to 30 people as part of their investigation, which was published Saturday. The allegations focus on two men. The first is Leslie Wexner, the founder of Victoria Secret’s parent company, L Brands. Ed Razek, the other man involved, was an executive many viewed as a proxy to Wexner. 

According to the report, Razek would hold his position over models’ heads. One model told the Times that his attitude exuded toxic masculinity and conveyed a message that said: “I am the holder of the power. I can make you or break you.”

The Times’ report alleges that Razek asked models dressed only in their bra and underwear for their phone numbers. He would also urge them to sit on his lap and offer to take them to private dinners.

In one specific instance, he was allegedly watching a fitting for supermodel Bella Hadid, who was being measured for underwear for the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to make sure the garments cleared broadcast standards. 

“Forget the panties,” the Times’ sources allege Razek said to Hadid. He then said that the real question was if the network would let her go “down the runway with those perfect titties.”

At that same fitting, the report also says that he placed his hand on a model’s crotch, over her underwear. 

The report said that several HR complaints were made against him with stacks of examples. The women complaining, however, were the ones who found themselves in the most trouble. In one case, a PR employee said that Razek verbally berated her in public. She complained, but to her knowledge, nothing was done and she soon quit. Another employee who complained about his behavior was put on administrative leave one day after lodging her concerns.

One model, Andi Muise, told the paper she felt she was being punished for rejecting Razek’s advances. Back in 2007, when she was 19, he invited her to dinner. She accepted thinking she could form a meaningful, professional relationship with him. On the way, he allegedly tried to kiss her and kept persisting after she refused.

She said this kind of behavior continued over email, where Razek would say he wanted to move in with her or take her “someplace sexy.” Muise told the Times she stayed polite while communicating with him, but when he invited her to come to his home for dinner, she said the idea made her uneasy and did not go. Not much later, she found out that after walking in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for four years, she was not being invited back. 

The Modern State of Victoria’s Secret

All of this comes as Victoria’s Secret’s future, for a multitude of reasons, sits at a crossroads. In terms of leadership, Razek left L Brand back in August and Wexner could soon follow. The Times claimed that he is considering his own retirement and selling the giant lingerie brand.

The company itself has also seen better days. Due to declining ratings and sales, they canceled the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2019. The event used to be a cultural staple of the fashion industry, with many models aspiring to walk its runway.

Many blame this downfall on the company’s idea of what women should look like. While body inclusivity and positivity has grown more mainstream, Victoria’s Secret still uses tall, thin models. Their hypersexualized image caters to a male fantasy of women. 

Both Wexner and Razek played a huge part in keeping that image. According to the Times’ report, when Wexner was pressed about embracing different body types he said, “Nobody goes to a plastic surgeon and says ‘make me fat.’”

Meanwhile, companies like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show diverse women and bodies in its advertising. While that brand has risen to success with this messaging, Victoria’s Secret has not kept pace.  

This is also just the latest scandal to involve Victoria’s Secret. The brand made headlines in 2019 when it was learned that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was a friend and adviser to Wexner.

According to the report, Epstein lured in aspiring models pretending to be a Victoria’s Secret recruiter. In at least two cases, he assaulted the women he brought in. The report claims that Wexner, who was close to Epstein at the time, knew this was happening and did not act on the complaints. 

Responses

A spokesperson for Wexner declined to speak for the Times. Razek denied the allegations, though he did not get into their specifics. He told the paper what was being reported was either untrue, misconstrued, or out of context. 

“I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other,” he said in an email to the Times.

L Brands released a statement of their own. It was obtained and published in full by NBC in Columbus, Ohio.

“We can assure you that the company is intensely focused on the corporate governance, workplace, and compliance practices that directly impact our 80,000 associates around the world, nearly 90% of whom are female,” the statement said. “We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”

See what others are saying: (NBC 4) (USA Today) (Fortune)

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Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG

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AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.” 


Lawsuit Filed Against Trump 

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses. 

“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,”  a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed. 

The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan. 

“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint. 

Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief. 

 The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation. 

“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media. 

“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”

Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets

According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”

“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued. 

Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time. 

For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million. 

Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million. 

Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”

“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,”  the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth. 

The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday. 

“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”

For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”

Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)

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Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power

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While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.


Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.

Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.

Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”

He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.

Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.

Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.

Continued Issues As Storm Rages On

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.

The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.

While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.

The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.

He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.

After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN

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Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows

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The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.


Largest Drop in Half a Century

The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.

From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.

In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.

The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.

Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.

Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.

According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.

But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.

Poverty Before COVID

Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.

They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.

It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.

The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.

They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.

Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.

The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.

Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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