The world’s biggest advertising company, WPP, has cut ties with the men-only Presidents Club Charity Dinner after female hostesses were reportedly groped, propositioned and sexually harassed at the event.
WPP’s boss, Sir Martin Sorrell, who is the FTSE100’s highest-paid chief executive, said he had attended the dinner many years ago and had “never seen anything” like the behaviour described by an undercover Financial Times journalist who worked at this year’s event.
Sir Martin said: “If it’s true – 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 last night 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 Bank of England also distanced itself from the event, cancelling a prize it had offered for guests to bid on: tea with Mark Carney.
In a statement on Wednesday, 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.“
As fallout from the shocking allegations continued, the co-chair of the dinner, David Meller, resigned from his position as non-executive director at the Department for Education.
Anne Milton, an education minister with responsibility for the department’s board, told Parliament that Meller had stood down from both his non-executive director role at the DfE.
Great Ormond Street Hospital said it would go as far as returning previous donations from the President Club Charitable Trust which organised the dinner, while disability charity Scope has said it would not apply or accept any further donations.
The black-tie event, attended by 360 figures from business, politics and finance, allegedly included auction lots involving a free lapdance at a Soho club and plastic surgery that could be used to “add spice to your wife”.
The FT alleged: “According to the accounts of multiple women working that night, groping and similar abuse was seen across many of the tables in the room.
“Hostesses reported men repeatedly putting hands up their skirts; one said an attendee had exposed his penis to her during the evening.”
The Presidents Club Charitable Trust was founded 32 years ago to raise money for underprivileged children, and has made donations to numerous children's charities over the last 10 years, including Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.
Following the reports, a spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “We are shocked to hear of the behaviour reported at the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner. We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way.
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