Topshop billionaire Philip Green named in 'Brit #MeToo' scandal
today Oct 25, 2018
British fashion industry billionaire Philip Green was named by a member of the House of Lords on Thursday as the businessman who used an injunction to suppress the publication of sexual harassment allegations by five employees.
The allegation against 66-year-old Green -- whose international clothing empire includes the popular Topshop and Topman brands -- was made after media cried foul about being "gagged" by rich and powerful tycoons.
The emerging scandal has also prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to accuse unnamed employers of abusing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
Several members of parliament threatened to reveal the company boss's name after The Daily Telegraph gave its entire front page Wednesday to a story headlined: "The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed."
The newspaper said the second-most senior judge in England issued a temporary injunction Tuesday against the publication of sexual harassment and racial abuse allegations against their boss.
But House of Lords peer Peter Hain told a hushed session Thursday that he was using his "parliamentary privilege" to disclose the alleged businessman's name.
"I feel it is my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of full details of a story which is clearly in the public interest," he said.
Hain said he learned the name after being "contacted by someone intimately involved in the case".
Arcadia Group, the holding company controlled by Philip Green, was not immediately able to comment on the allegations when contacted by AFP.
- 'Brit #MeToo'
The Daily Telegraph said the accused man had hired seven lawyers and spent nearly £500,000 ($645,000, 565,000 euros) in legal fees to settle the complaints using non-disclosure agreements.
It followed up the story with another Thursday in which a woman identified only as a "well-known socialite" said she believed the same businessman slid a hand up her skirt at a function a decade ago.
The mass-selling tabloid The Sun devoted three pages Thursday to the "Brit #MeToo gagging scandal" headlined "Gags to Riches".
The popular i commuter newspaper called it a "MeToo cover-up" while The Times interviewed a former assistant to Harvey Weinstein who exposed the US film mogul's behaviour despite signing an NDA.
The case "highlights the weaponisation of NDAs and how they are being used unethically," former Weinstein assistant Zelda Perkins told The Times.
Non-disclosure agreements are signed by companies and their executives to prevent business secrets from leaking out.
Their use has been a source of debate since the MeToo movement first gained momentum in the wake of the Weinstein allegations last year.
They were used by Weinstein and lawyers for US President Donald Trump with porn actress Stormy Daniels and at least one other woman.
May stressed in parliament Wednesday that NDAs "cannot stop people from whistleblowing".
May was asked to take a stand on The Daily Telegraph case during a question-and-answer session with MPs during which several spoke up for the paper.
The British premier said she could not weigh in on ongoing court hearings but vowed to "bring forward measures for consideration, for consultation to seek to improve the regulation around non-disclosure agreements".
The Daily Telegraph said the government's new "consultation document" on NDAs will be published next week.
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