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Abercrombie CEO Ordered to Give Second Deposition in Pilot Suit

Abercrombie CEO Ordered to Give Second Deposition in Pilot Suit
Michael S. Jeffries, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, speaks at the 2009 annual National Retail Federation conference in New York. Jeffries will be deposed this month in an age-discrimination lawsuit brought by a former corporate jet pilot in April 2010. Photographer: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

A judge ordered Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael Jeffries to give a second deposition this month in an age-discrimination lawsuit brought by a former corporate jet pilot in April 2010.

Jeffries will be deposed for as many as seven hours in Philadelphia in the next two weeks after Abercrombie’s “disturbingly belated production of highly damaging evidence,” U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond said in a Nov. 8 order. The plaintiffs are pursuing additional discovery after Abercrombie handed over handwritten notes from the company’s former director of procurement, Scott Mayer.

The CEO was deposed in Ohio in 2010 as part of the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Philadelphia by corporate jet pilot Michael Stephen Bustin, who is now 55 and claims he was fired and replaced by a younger man. The suit has uncovered Jeffries’s specifications for the airplane’s attendants, from how they were to address him and his guests to the kind of cologne they wore. Plaintiffs also want to determine his partner’s involvement at Abercrombie through his role heading a limited liability corporation called The Jeffries Family Office.

Mayer’s notes “may well offer compelling proof that Matthew Smith, the life partner of Abercrombie CEO Michael Jeffries, allegedly acting at Jeffries’s direction, illegally ordered Plaintiff’s termination because of Plaintiff’s age,” Diamond wrote in the Nov. 8 order. The additional discovery will help “determine whether Abercrombie, Mayer, Jeffries, counsel or someone else intentionally failed to produce the Mayer notes” after Bustin’s first request about two years ago, he wrote.

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A former Abercrombie human resources manager and a Jeffries Family Office representative also will be deposed.

Abercrombie is unable to provide a comment at this time Mackenzie Bruce, a spokeswoman, said. The retailer’s general counsel said last month the pilot’s lawsuit is without merit.

The judge’s order came days before Abercrombie’s third-quarter earnings report, set for tomorrow, and as the New Albany, Ohio-based retailer gears up for the holiday shopping season. During fiscal 2012, Abercrombie generated 32 percent of its $4.2 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter.

Jeffries, 68, has been struggling to reverse falling same-store sales as shoppers grow weary of Abercrombie’s fashions and risqué marketing. The company’s shares have erased 45 percent of their value in the past 12 months through yesterday, and activist investor Ralph Whitworth has pressed for changes, a person familiar with the matter said in September.

The pilot’s case is Bustin v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 10-cv-01675, U.S. District, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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