An incendiary lawsuit against Flaunt magazine and it’s principles is over.
The Los Angeles-based fashion magazine is officially out from under allegations made earlier this year by a former assistant, Joseph Dalla Betta, who claimed to have been groped, slapped and verbally harassed in work settings by chief executive officer and comptroller Luis Barajas and editor in chief Matthew Bedard. Flaunt cross-sued Betta, and that case was dismissed as well.
An attorney for Betta could not be reached for comment, but both of the lawsuits were dismissed at the end of September with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled or appealed in any way. Earlier court documents show the parties were in settlement talks and eventually came to an agreement to seek a full dismissal. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.
Barajas confirmed the dismissal, but declined to comment on the settlement. He admitted that the lawsuit caused some issues for his publication, like a number of advertisers halting placements. But with the resolution of the lawsuit in place, he said major advertisers like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Compagnie Financière Richemont “have already committed to returning.” The magazine, a quarterly print publication, has a 300-page fall issue coming out this week and a number of new advertisers came in despite the lawsuit, including Amazon Originals, McLaren, Gentle Monster and The Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others.
Although Barajas denied Betta’s claims, when asked if the lawsuit led to any changes in Flaunt’s professional culture, Barajas was a little circumspect.
“We have, in our 20 years of operating, witnessed shifts in not only workplace culture but the broader cultural landscape,” Barajas said, “and have responded accordingly with the integration of third-party course training and human resources, and will continue to do our best to create a culture of respect and inspiration for the many people who desire to work at Flaunt.”
The dismissal of Betta’s lawsuit comes about two months after Long Nguyen, Flaunt’s founding style director, told WWD he was ending his work with the publication, in part, over Barajas’ handling of Betta’s lawsuit. Given the problems it caused, Nguyen said he urged Barajas and Bedard to step aside and launch an internal investigation — actions that other companies have taken when faced with accusations coming out of the continued culture of #MeToo. In the course of reporting, WWD also learned of additional alleged instances of inappropriate behavior by Barajas with his employees. Two former employees expressed that they’d experienced first hand or witnessed similar incidents to those alleged in Betta’s lawsuit. Neither employee ever filed a lawsuit.
For Barajas’ part, he denied in full all of Betta’s claims and those reported by WWD, as well as additional claims by Nguyen regarding purported issues with Flaunt’s circulation and online traffic being used for advertising deals. Barajas accused Nguyen of being disgruntled and said in discussing the dismissal of Betta’s lawsuit that traffic to Flaunt’s web site today is up 400 percent compared to 2017. Revenue, led by online sales, partnerships and integrations, is up 12 percent, as well, he said.
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