Philip Green, the billionaire owner of the Topshop clothing chain, was named in Parliament as the British businessman alleged to have used legal agreements and payments to hide accusations of sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying.
Peter Hain told the House of Lords on Thursday that he felt it was his "duty" to reveal the name under parliamentary privilege after being contacted by someone involved in the case. The accusations are the latest in the #MeToo movement that has implicated high-ranking officials and businessmen for allegedly harassing and abusing women.
Hain's statement named Green as the subject of an article in the Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday about a leading British businessman accused of sexually harassing and racially abusing his staff.
"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 the full details of the story, which is clearly in the public interest," Hain said.
A UK court prevented the newspaper from publishing details of the account, including the man's name, the companies, the specific allegations against him or how much he paid in settlements. The businessman had nondisclosure agreements, which the court said justified an injunction.
Green's Arcadia Group didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, the Guardian newspaper reported that Green had been involved in a spat over a feminist pop-up shop at one of his Topshop stores. Penguin Books had collaborated on a display that featured a book of essays about feminism, and Green ordered the display taken down, the Guardian reported. Green later apologised for what he called a misunderstanding, according to British tabloid the Daily Mail.
Parliamentary privilege has been used to skirt court orders before. In 2011, lawmakers took to both branches of the Parliament to identify two men, including former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Chief Executive Officer Fred Goodwin, who had separately taken out so-called super-injunctions to stop newspapers from publishing stories about extra-marital affairs.
The allegations come about a year after the New York Times reported on accounts of serial predation by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. After the report, women came forward with a deluge of accusations against prominent men in entertainment, business and politics. What came to be known as the #MeToo movement tallied at least 429 people with publicly reported allegations of sex-related bad behaviour in national, state and local media, trade publications and the public record since the Weinstein story was first published.
Worth about US$2.7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Green has also been embroiled in scandal for years over his management of the UK department-store chain BHS. He netted a fortune in dividends from the company while the employee pension fund was hundreds of millions of pounds in the red. In 2015, Green sold the troubled business for one pound to a former race-car driver with no previous retail experience. The company subsequently collapsed.
Lawmakers unsuccessfully demanded revocation of Green's knighthood, calling him the "unacceptable face of capitalism." In 2017, he agreed to pay as much as 363 million pounds ($714 million) to fund his former employees' pensions.