Victoria's Secret owner to investigate company ties to Jeffrey Epstein

By Stephen Gandel

/ MoneyWatch

Jeffrey Epstein found injured in jail cell

Victoria's Secret corporate parent has repeatedly said it has no direct company ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But it appears it doesn't hurt to double check.

L Brands' board of directors this week hired an outside law firm to review any evidence of Epstein's role, if there was one, at the Columbus, Ohio-based company, an L Brands spokesperson confirmed to CBS Moneywatch. The review is being led by L Brands' independent directors and not longtime L Brands CEO and Chairman Les Wexner, whose decades-long personal and financial relationship with Epstein has come back to haunt L Brands' stock price the past few weeks.

Epstein was Wexner's personal money manager and business adviser. Wexner said he ended the relationship 12 years ago. But Epstein's recent arrest for sex trafficking of girls has raised the question of whether Epstein also ever had a role officially or unofficially at Wexner's retail company. Former employees have said Epstein was a part of corporate discussions, including giving input on what women should become Victoria's Secret models, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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What's more, the company has tweeked its official statement on Epstein. L Brands, through a spokesperson, now says that "we do not believe [Epstein] was ever employed by nor served as an authorized representative of the company." A spokesperson had previously told MoneyWatch that Epstein had never been an employee of the company.

Judge denies bail to Jeffrey Epstein in sex trafficking case

"Mr. Epstein's crimes are abhorrent, and we applaud every effort to bring justice to those harmed," the company said through the spokesperson Thursday. "We take these matters seriously, and at the direction of the L Brands Board of Directors, have engaged outside counsel to conduct a thorough review."

Financier Epstein, who claimed to have managed money for only billionaire clients, was arrested and charged in mid-July with the sex trafficking of girls. He had been convicted, and served time in prison, for a related charge a decade ago. He is being held without bail in a New York City jail, and on Monday was found injured on the floor of his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York and has been put on suicide watch.

L Brands CEO Wexner's relationship with Epstein has raised questions about the 81-year-old retail mogul's judgement and has impacted L Brands stock and further dented Victoria's Secret brand, which has already increasingly seemed out of touch in the #Metoo era.

Epstein worked as a personal money manager for Wexner for over a decade, and appears to have been an adviser in a real estate venture with the retail executive as well as a trustee of charitable trusts connected to both Wexner and his wife Abigail. According to a 1994 filing, Wexner and Epstein shared a corporate address: L Brands' headquarters building.

A company spokesperson said Wexner cut all ties to Epstein 12 years ago, but the Columbus Dispatch has reported that Epstein donated $47 million to a charitable trust connected to Abigail in January 2008, shortly after he had been accused of having sex with girls in the earlier Florida case.

Wexner said last week in an email to employees that he regrets that he ever "crossed paths" with Epstein. "When Mr. Epstein was my personal money manager, he was involved in many aspects of my financial life," wrote in the email. "But let me assure you that I was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment."

First published on July 25, 2019 / 4:10 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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