Scranton, Pa

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Abercrombie & Fitch for “Sex Trafficking Venture”

Posted: November 28, 2023

On October 27, 2023, former Abercrombie & Fitch model David Bradberry filed an individual and class action against Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and its former CEO, Michael Jeffries, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on October 27, 2023. The complaint alleges that Jeffries, during his reign as CEO from 1992 to 2014, led a widespread “sex trafficking venture” in which he “prey[ed] upon attractive young men who believed Jeffries was going to hire them as an Abercrombie model”- only to be drugged and forced to participate in sex acts with Jeffries and his long-time partner, Matthew Smith, also named as a defendant.  As for the company itself, the complaint alleges that “Abercrombie’s crucial support allowed Jeffries to successfully rape, sexually assault, and coercively sex traffic David Bradberry” and the dozens of men that have joined the class.  


The suit was brought under the United States federal sex trafficking statute, New York’s Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Act, Article 130 of the New York Penal Code, the New York Adult Survivors Act, New York’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law, and other provisions of law. 


The factual allegations in the complaint describe Jeffries’ international trafficking network of Abercrombie employees and associates. Jeffries’ “scheme” allegedly started with a male recruiter who approached aspiring young models with the opportunity of their dreams- becoming an Abercrombie model. Understanding that recruiters held the “keys to the Abercrombie kingdom,” victims like Bradberry were allegedly coerced into performing commercial sex acts with recruiters to “move higher in the chain” to access the opportunities they sought.  


Once the victim unlocked the “next level” in the casting process, an audition with Jeffries, victims were allegedly required to visit the “groomer,” who would “shave the model head to toe including and especially the intimate private parts,” pick up pre-selected clothing from the Abercrombie store to wear to Jeffries’ residence, and be transported and checked into a hotel per Jeffries’ arrangements and at Abercrombie’s expense.  


Once at one of Jeffries’ several remote and private residences, the young men were allegedly required to sign non-disclosure agreements and informed that if they ever spoke about what happened at the “audition,” significant legal action would be initiated against them. Once trapped in a room with Jeffries, the victims were allegedly forced to take drugs like “poppers” and Viagra and engage in commercial sex acts with Jeffries, Smith, and other models at Jeffries’ direction. Jeffries would then allegedly pay the victims thousands of dollars in cash after the sexual assault occurred.  


The complaint states that “Jeffries was skilled at ascertaining his victim’s greatest aspirations and targeted those fears and aspirations to coerce and trap his victims into performing commercial sex acts and to be subjected to sexual abuse.” The plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury, as well as punitive and compensatory damages. 


This case illustrates another example of an individual in power using their position to exploit others. At the CSE Institute, we have observed lawyers, doctors, teachers, bosses, landlords, and coaches who have used their power, wealth, or status to manipulate, sexually assault, rape, and exploit others. There is no question that there is a significant power imbalance between an aspiring young model and the agents and CEO of a popular, established brand known not only for its clothing- but also for the sex appeal of its young male models 


This is about more than Jeffries himself- this is also about Abercrombie who allegedly enabled its CEO to rape and traffic dozens of aspiring models in furtherance of its own financial gain. Further, the complaint alleges that Abercrombie had an active role in the sex-trafficking venture by granting Jefferies “unfettered access” to aspiring young models and to Abercrombie assets and resources that it then allowed Jeffries to utilize to travel and operate the sex trafficking operation. Abercrombie allowed Jeffries to act in and exploit his position of power as the CEO of the company and reap the financial by-products of the sex trafficking venture, taking Abercrombie from a bankrupt company to a “sex-themed” brand grossing $2 billion annually.  


Most importantly, the CSE Institute applauds the bravery of David Bradberry and the survivors in this case. Survivor voices are the force of change and have the power to bring awareness to the reality of abuse present in systems of gross power imbalance. We continue to urge organizations to establish proper procedures for investigating and effectively handling reports of abuse in hopes of facilitating relief and justice for potential victims. 


The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates as this matter unfolds. 


All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University. 

Category: News

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