The notorious President’s Club dinner where young women were allegedly groped by wealthy businessmen has been blasted in a Charity Commission probe, MailOnline can reveal.
Bosses at the gala where agency-hired young hostesses were asked to describe what underwear they would be wearing were condemned by the Commission.
Trustees at the scandal-hit charity event told the Commission said they saw nothing wrong with the skimpy dresses and high heels the girls were told to wear.
They also said that they had specified the size and shape of the hostesses so that they could fit existing sexy dresses and keep costs down.
The notorious Presidents Club dinner where young women were allegedly groped by wealthy businessmen has been blasted in a Charity Commission probe
In a leaked 11-page report, charity bosses were condemned for:
- Failing to see the risks of staging an event involving young women and middle aged men
- Absence of oversight and a lack of awareness of the regulations when putting on such an event
- Making ‘ill informed’ decisions that damaged the reputation of the charity
The investigation found that the PCCT charity – which has hosted the event for 33 years, raising £18million – had not acted with ‘reasonable care and skill’ when putting on an event of this nature.
Trustees had failed to see the risks of holding an event where female hostesses were told to wear sexy clothing and serve drinks to its all male guest list, it found.
Organisers accepted that their model of fundraising would be considered ‘less appropriate in today’s world’.
The scandal-hit charity hit the headlines in January when a female reporter from the Financial Times – went undercover at the men-only event – where she said women were grabbed and propositioned.
Bosses at the Presidents Club gala where agency-hired young hostesses were asked to describe what underwear they would be wearing were condemned by the Commission
Journalist Madison Marriage claimed she and other women were groped, subject to lewd comments and propositioned at the event held in the Dorchester Hotel in London.
One man is said to have exposed himself while another said he wanted to rip the knickers off a hostess.
The guest list at the event read like a ‘who’s who’ of British business, although many of those sent invites failed to attend and swiftly distanced themselves from the charity in the fall out from the scandal.
Auction prizes on offer included high-powered lunches with the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.
Sports cars were also raffled off while an offer of plastic surgery for ‘your missus’ attracted much bidding among the 360-men in the room.
The dinner raised more than £2m with comedian David Walliams hosting the event and TV presenter Jonathan Gould leading a charity auction.
Both men said they never witnessed any sexual harassment and were ‘appalled’ by the allegations.
The scandal led to widespread condemnation by MPs and resulted in the charity closing down.
Its principal trustee David Meller, who also worked as an advisor to the Department of Education, resigned from the charity.
Beneficiaries of proceeds raised at the black tie dinner, including Great Ormond Street Hospital, announced they would refuse to accept the donation.
Following the outcry the Charity Commission launched an investigation to see if the Presidents Club had breached their legal duty to manage the charity and see if any laws had been broken.
The reporter who exposed the seedy goings on was interviewed as were the agency that supplied the 130 women for the event.
Hostesses were encouraged to speak to the Commission but it did not receive any formal complaints about what allegedly took place, the report said.
The scandal-hit Presidents Club hit the headlines in January when female reporter Madison Marriage from the Financial Times – went undercover at the men-only event – where she said women were grabbed and propositioned
The three Trustees – Meller, and property tycoons Harvey Soning and Bruce Richie – told the Commission they had attempted to identify potential risks but had not been made aware of any complaints from those serving drinks at previous events.
Following the publicity over the #MeToo movement and sexual harassment of women by men in power, the Trustees said they had a code of conduct printed on the programme for the event.
They admitted that staging an all-male event with women serving drinks at a time when the behaviour of men towards women was under scrutiny showed they had ‘not moved with the times’.
The Commission said: ‘The trustees’ responses in interview evidenced that they were clearly aware of the risks generated by holding an event of this nature.
‘Whilst there is evidence that trustees did undertake some mitigation in relation to the risks through the issuing of a code of conduct with the presenter of the event drawing the attendees attention to the code, and the recruitment of security staff this did not sufficiently mitigate the risks of holding an event of this nature.
‘The trustees relied upon the success of the previous event and fundamentally failed to adequately review the nature of the event or the controls in place.
‘The trustees failed to fundamentally address the risk to the reputation of the charity in relation to it being an all-male event with predominantly female event staff who had been issued with dresses purchased by the charity and with instructions on appearance.’
The scandal led to widespread condemnation by MPs and resulted in the PCCT charity – which has hosted the event for 33 years, raising £18million was closed down
By their own admission the trustees now accept the charity’s ‘model of fundraising may be considered less appropriate to a larger number of people in today’s world’ in contravention of their duty to not expose the charity to undue risk.
The owners of the agency that supplied the women told the Commission they did not witness any harassment and said although three women said they felt uncomfortable no formal complaints were made.
However, the Commission ruled that the Trustees had failed to take sufficient steps to investigate what took place last January and had failed to ensure the reputation of the charity was protected.
It also said the agency’s instructions to women on how to dress were ‘not acceptable’ in a charitable environment.
The report noted that the Trustees deny the allegations of harassment and assault reported by the media.
In conclusion the Commission said their appeal for information did not result in any women coming forward and said the Equality and Human Rights Commission had no findings to make, but had not investigated what took place.
The Commission ruled that the Trustees had breached their care of duty and ‘failed to manage charity resources responsibly, specifically avoiding exposing the charity’s assets, beneficiaries or reputation to undue risk’.
In response the Presidents Club Trustees said they had cooperated fully with the Commission while describing the FT report as unleashing a ‘media frenzy.’
They also said charities that had initially declined donations had now accepted them, including £500,000 to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
They said: ‘We note that, despite the frenzy created by the FT articles, not a single charity has returned any money to the charity’s bank account and no charity has refused any money from the PCCT.
‘During the 33 years of the PCCT’s existence, approximately 200 charities benefitted from donations: of those seven suggested that they may return money. None has done so.
In a leaked 11-page report, the Charity Commission ruled that the Trustees had breached their care of duty and ‘failed to manage charity resources responsibly’ Pictured: Menu at the event
‘Throughout its existence the PCCT held its annual men only ball, raising a total of around £18 million for charity. The PCCT, its Trustees and its aims have always previously been viewed as above reproach. Our sole aim was only ever to raise money for charity. We believe it is regrettable that this was not acknowledged in the Charity Commission report.
‘We are also surprised at both the report’s muted acknowledgement of the fact that not a single complainant has come forward since the FT’s article was published, and at the weight of credibility it gives to the FT’s reporting of the 2018 dinner.’
The Trustees said the decision to shut down the charity would deprive sick and underprivileged children a source of fund raising, they added.