LONDON (AP) — A British politician used Parliament’s free-speech guarantee Thursday to identify Topshop owner Philip Green as the businessman accused of sexual harassment who had secured a court order barring the media from revealing his identity.
Green, whose Arcadia Group owns fashion chain Topshop and other brands, was named in the House of Lords by Labour politician Peter Hain.
Green obtained a court injunction to stop the Daily Telegraph from running stories about employee allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse.
In a statement issued after Hain spoke, Green said, “To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behavior, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations.”
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The Court of Appeal issued the publication prohibition this week, saying the five alleged victims had been “compromised” because they signed non-disclosure agreements as part of settlement packages in which they received substantial payments.
The injunction prevented the media from naming Green, but lawmakers’ words in Parliament are immune from legal action under an exemption known as parliamentary privilege.
Hain said he had been “contacted by somebody intimately involved in the case.”
“I feel it’s 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 the full details of a story which is clearly in the public interest,” he said.
In his statement, Green said he was not commenting “on anything that has happened in court or was said in Parliament today.”
Green, 66, is chairman of Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, as well as Topshop.
Long a fixture in the front row at London Fashion week and frequently photographed in the company of Kate Moss and other supermodels, Green he drew criticism in the past over his business practices.
In 2015, he sold department store chain BHS for 1 pound after 15 years of ownership. BHS collapsed the next year, leaving a gaping hole in its pension fund. Green elicited further disapproval when it emerged he took hundreds of millions in dividends and other payments while he owned the business.
Media outlets have long criticized the use of court injunctions by the famous and powerful to keep stories out of the news. As in other European countries, U.K. courts balance the right to free speech with individuals’ right to privacy and due process.
Conservative lawmaker James Cleverly tweeted after Hain’s unmasking of Green he hoped people would realize injunctions “are nothing more than a good way to part with large sums of money and a bad way to keep things secret.”
The case has also renewed debate about the corporate use of non-disclosure agreements. The practice has been under scrutiny since it emerged last year that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein used them to keep alleged sex abuse victims from speaking out.
Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. He denies all non-consensual sexual contact.
British Prime Minister Theresa May promised Wednesday to crack down on employers who use non-disclosure agreements “unethically.”