People walk past a Victoria’s Secret store in Barcelona.
John Milner | LightRocket | Getty Images
A shareholder of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, is suing the company for records and alleging that its bra and lingerie brand has had a “toxic culture of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation” for years.
According to the complaint filed Thursday, shareholder John Giarratano originally requested to see the company’s books in mid-February after The New York Times reported a pattern of bullying and harassment at Victoria’s Secret. Giarratano wanted to investigate potential wrongdoing by the company or its board.
According to the lawsuit, the shareholder was troubled by reading about treatment of employees and models.
“While the brand has come under scrutiny in recent years for its ‘porny’ image and portrayal of women as sex objects, the public could not have predicted the depths of wrongdoing at the Company,” it said.
Since then, the lawsuit said the company hasn’t provided any documents and has ignored his messages following up.
“This stonewalling is all the more disappointing given that recent reporting has made clear that Victoria’s Secret is in urgent need of reform,” the lawsuit said, adding that the deeply entrenched and toxic culture at the brand created an abusive and hostile work environment that was perpetuated and condoned by senior L Brands executives.”
A spokeswoman for L Brands did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Giarratano is the beneficial owner of about 216 shares of L Brands stock, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit is the latest challenge for the struggling retailer. Victoria’s Secret has lost ground as its brand — long associated with sexy lingerie and skinny models — fell out of favor with customers. It was tossed into the spotlight as L Brands’ then-CEO Les Wexner was closely tied to Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier accused of sex trafficking. And then, the pandemic hit and temporarily shuttered its stores.
L Brands’ deal to take the company private and sell the majority of the flagship brand to private equity firm, Sycamore Partners, fell apart in early May.
In the first quarter, Victoria Secret’s net sales dropped by 37% in the first quarter, compared with last year.
In late May, L Brands said it’s going to shut more than 200 stores this year — and warned that more closures are coming.
Shares of L Brands have fallen nearly 26% over the past year, and are valued at nearly $5 billion.
Bloomberg Law reported the lawsuit earlier Thursday.