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26 Nov 2020 | 07:37

Boohoo hires former judge Leveson to oversee reform

(Sharecast News) - Boohoo has appointed legal heavyweight Brian Leveson, who headed the government's inquiry into the press, to oversee the company's efforts to recover from a scandal over treatment of workers. The fast fashion company said Leveson would provide independent oversight of its change programme. He will report directly to the board and his reports will be published.

Boohoo was rocked in 2020 by revelations that workers in factories making its clothes were paid illegally low wages and forced to work in unsafe conditions including fire traps. The scandal caused its shares to plunge and big customers such as Next to cancel orders.

A review by Alison Levitt, a leading barrister, found in September that the allegations were substantially true and that there were endemic failings in Boohoo's supply chain centred on factories in Leicester. Boohoo pledged to overhaul its buying practices, carry out rigorous checks of suppliers and work to improve conditions in Leicester, the centre of the UK's garment industry.

Leveson's appointment appears to underline the company's resolve to clean up its business. A QC since 1986, Leveson rose to become a high court judge in 2006 and head of criminal justice for England and Wales before retiring in 2019.

He is best known for overseeing the independent public inquiry into the ethics of the UK press following the phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News International. The inquiry in 2011 and 2012 heard evidence from Murdoch and other media figures and recommended regulatory reform.

Leveson said: "Boohoo has recognised that it must institute and embed change so that everyone involved in the Group's supply chain is treated fully in accordance with the law and the principles of ethical trading. I look forward to providing independent oversight of the Agenda for Change programme."

Boohoo, whose brands include Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal, said it had enlisted KPMG to help with its overhaul and that Leveson had appointed legal and enforcement specialists to make sure the changes stick.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: "Boohoo has announced that no less a personage than Brian Leveson is to provide independent oversight of the group's "Agenda for Change" programme, which must mean that it is reasonably serious about things."
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