American Apparel has submitted a trove of serious and often lurid allegations against ex-CEO and founder Dov Charney, in response to a defamation lawsuit Charney brought against the company and its chair last month.
In a lengthy declaration filed late last week, Colleen Brown, who chairs American Apparel's board and is a member of the "Suitability Committee" that investigated and eventually fired Charney last year, alleged the ex-CEO used company devices to send sexually explicit texts and emails to employees.
"Daddy is so excited to play with the most little tiny blonde cum kitten in the whole school," one message allegedly read. Another: "Should I unload my cock now??? Like a filthy pig?"
The filing is the most detailed insight American Apparel has given into its investigation into Charney, which began after he was served with a surprise termination letter in June. The inclusion of such such explicit messages, and allegations of sexual antics taking place between Charney and American Apparel's models and employees, is another escalation of the long-running war of words between the ousted founder and the company's new management.
Brown alleged Charney "frequently engaged in inappropriate sexual banter, infantilizing women and referring to himself as 'Daddy,'" and that he verbally and physically abused employees. Brown also shared details about previously confidential arbitration settlements with ex-employees as part of the filing.
Brown's statements, which are dated Sept. 30, were filed Friday as part of American Apparel's response to a defamation lawsuit filed by Charney in May as part of a broader effort by the founder and his allies to win back control of the company.
American Apparel filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under a California statute that defends people sued for exercising their right to free speech and petition. As part of that, the company is looking to prove that internal statements it made about Charney and his termination are accurate and made without malice — hence the sharing of all those graphic details.
Keith Fink, a lawyer for Charney, said "much of this information and allegations are completely false" and that management is "desperately trying to distort public attention to the fact that Mr. Charney's firing was illegal."
"They went through a well protected personal photo archive that no one had access to other than Mr. Charney and looked though his private materials which span a period of over 30 years," Fink said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "They went through years and years of private text messages from his personal telephone between himself and his friends, some of which involved amorous conversations that were consensual and welcome in nature."
Brown alleged Charney used an American Apparel computer and network server to save videos and images of himself "engaged in all manner of sexual behavior with numerous models and employees." She cites videos and images "of a model orally copulating Mr. Charney's penis, testicles and anus during a photo shoot" and "images and video of another model engaging in mutual masturbation with Mr. Charney and orally copulating his penis."
"At least one of these encounters appears, based on the pictures and videos, to have taken place in Mr. Charney's office," her declaration said.
Charney allegedly sought to remove evidence of the encounters, Brown said, by sending emails to employees asking them to "delete naughty emails!"
In accusing Charney of physically and verbally abusing staff, Brown cites an email from a woman employee that allegedly said: "First, don't ever, ever hit or slap me in the face again. Don't call me a slut, whore, slave or bitch. Don't call me stupid."
The unnamed woman allegedly went on to say: "[T]o be associated with American Apparel, especially as a woman, was once a bit of a status symbol — something to be proud of. Now it means you're a whore.'"
In past interviews, Charney has acknowledged having physical relationships with staff members, but stressed that all were consensual.
American Apparel recently obtained a temporary restraining order against Charney that prevents him from disparaging the company. But that hasn't stopped him from pursuing legal action against the company, most recently by way of a separate defamation suit filed on Friday, which a company spokesperson described as "yet another example of the habitual nuisance lawsuits" filed by the ousted founder.
The new filing by American Apparel also sheds light on high-profile sexual harassment claims against Charney that were ultimately settled in confidential arbitration. Claims from ex-employees named Kimbra Lo and Tesa Lubans-DeHaven were settled before arbitration hearings for confidential amounts, Brown said in last week's filing.
The famous Irene Morales sexual harassment lawsuit, in which Morales sought $260 million and alleged Charney locked her in his apartment as a "sex slave," was settled for $1.56 million based on a finding that Charney supported another employee setting up a blog that impersonated her. And Alyssa Ferguson, another ex-employee, was awarded $1.82 million based on Charney's failure to intervene in the creation of another blog that impersonated her.
Brown claims that in total, such lawsuits against Charney cost $8.2 million in insured litigation costs and $1.2 million in uninsured litigation costs through September 2014.
"If these events happened, why was he given an employment agreement in 2012?" said Fink, Charney's lawyer, in an email. "The answer is simple: these events either didn't happen, were irrelevant (e.g. such as the blog which the company approved based on the First Amendment) or were of a personal nature (such as an amorous message only discovered when the company broke into Mr. Charney's e-mail or text messages)."
American Apparel closed at a record low of 41 cents a share yesterday, down 66% from a high point in July 2014, in the wake of Charney's initial termination.
Another excerpt from Brown's declaration:
Updates with additional comment from Charney's lawyer in ninth paragraph, additional comment from American Apparel spokesperson in 16th paragraph.
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.