Rowdy Men-Only Charity Event Shut Down After Groping Claims

Women working the event for scions of British business, politics, and entertainment said they were repeatedly groped and propositioned.

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Jan 24 2018, 8:54pm

An exclusive, men-only London fundraising dinner is permanently shutting down after an exposé accused its attendees—power players in British business and politics—of widespread sexual harassment, the Financial Times reports.

The Presidents Club Charitable Trust hosted the dinner for 33 years, raising more than $28 million for charity. But when a Financial Times reporter went to this year's event undercover as one of its 130 hostesses, she found that many of the women were groped, propositioned, and harassed. The story was a massive scandal in the UK given the party's high-profile guest list—attendees included at least one member of Parliament, and one auction prize promised tea with the governor of England's central bank.

The exposé reported that the 19- to 23-year-old hostesses were instructed to wear "short, tight black dresses" and matching black underwear, and warned beforehand that some men at the event might be "annoying." Over the course of the night, several of the women said that men repeatedly groped them, put their hands up their skirts, and made lewd comments. One hostess told the Times an attendee exposed himself to her, and another said she was asked if she was a prostitute.

"You look far too sober," one attendee reportedly told a hostess before grabbing her. "I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers, and dance on that table."

The Presidents Club told the Times it would stop putting on events, adding that any funds it still holds will go to charity before it ultimately shuts down for good. David Meller, the event's chairman, has already resigned from his role on the board of Britain's Department of Education, and two major hospitals that received money from the event pledged to return the donations.

The organization vowed to investigate the allegations of misconduct at its event "fully and promptly," telling the Times in a statement that "appropriate action" would be taken. Meanwhile, the UK's Charity Commission has opened its own investigation into exactly what went down at the rowdy dinner.

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An exclusive, men-only London fundraising dinner is permanently shutting down after an exposé accused its attendees—power players in British business and politics—of widespread sexual harassment, the Financial Times reports.

The Presidents Club Charitable Trust hosted the dinner for 33 years, raising more than $28 million for charity. But when a Financial Times reporter went to this year's event undercover as one of its 130 hostesses, she found that many of the women were groped, propositioned, and harassed. The story was a massive scandal in the UK given the party's high-profile guest list—attendees included at least one member of Parliament, and one auction prize promised tea with the governor of England's central bank.

The exposé reported that the 19- to 23-year-old hostesses were instructed to wear "short, tight black dresses" and matching black underwear, and warned beforehand that some men at the event might be "annoying." Over the course of the night, several of the women said that men repeatedly groped them, put their hands up their skirts, and made lewd comments. One hostess told the Times an attendee exposed himself to her, and another said she was asked if she was a prostitute.

"You look far too sober," one attendee reportedly told a hostess before grabbing her. "I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers, and dance on that table."

The Presidents Club told the Times it would stop putting on events, adding that any funds it still holds will go to charity before it ultimately shuts down for good. David Meller, the event's chairman, has already resigned from his role on the board of Britain's Department of Education, and two major hospitals that received money from the event pledged to return the donations.

The organization vowed to investigate the allegations of misconduct at its event "fully and promptly," telling the Times in a statement that "appropriate action" would be taken. Meanwhile, the UK's Charity Commission has opened its own investigation into exactly what went down at the rowdy dinner.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

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