WPP cuts ties with London charity gala accused of allowing sexual harassment

WPP has said it will no longer support a charity gala in London which the Financial Times has reported to involve female staff working on the event being sexually harassed and groped by its male-only guests.

The FT last night published 'Men Only: Inside the charity fundraiser where hostesses are put on show'.

The story is an account of two of its staff's experiences going undercover last week to work as hostesses at the Presidents Club Charity Dinner at the famous Dorchester hotel. The event raises money for causes including Great Ormond Street Hospital - although the charity has now said it will return donations received from the event (see end of story).

The FT reports that the event "was attended by 360 figures from British business, politics and finance and entertainment", and that the 130 hostesses hired were told to "wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels".

It reports that many of the hostesses "were subjected to groping, lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere", and that lots at an auction included a night at a strip club and a course of plastic surgery presented with the description: "Add spice to your wife."

'Regrettable' WPP withdrawal

WPP is among the companies named as being involved in the event.

"WPP, the FTSE 100 advertising conglomerate, sponsored a table at the event as it has in previous years. Martin Sorrell, chief executive, was not present this year — though he has attended in the past. Andrew Scott, its chief operating officer for Europe, hosted the table in his absence," the FT article states.

A spokesman for WPP said: "WPP has traditionally sponsored a table at the Presidents Club dinner to support its fundraising for children’s charities. Neither the company nor our attendees were aware of the alleged incidents until informed of them by the Financial Times.

"WPP takes these reports very seriously and, while we will continue to support relevant charities, in light of the allegations we are ending our association with the event."

Sorrell, who is currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, this morning told the BBC: "I have never seen anything like that.

"We checked with our people who were there at our table and they said they saw nothing of that kind - but we issued a statement saying that we won't support the charity in future, which is regrettable because it is a charity that supports numerous children's charities and has done a lot of good work."

The Dorchester told the FT it has a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment and would "work with the relevant authorities as necessary" if allegations were brought to it.

The Presidents Club said in a statement to the FT that it had raised "several million pounds for disadvantaged children", and added: "The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken."

Update - since this story was published, Great Ormond Street Hospital has said it will return donations raised by the event.

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