US retailer Guess on Tuesday said that its co-founder will relinquish his day-to-day responsibilities on an unpaid basis following allegations of “improper conduct”.

The Los Angeles-based company said it formed a special committee earlier this month to oversee an investigation into “recent allegations of improper conduct” by Paul Marciano. The company said Mr Marciano has denied the allegations.

“I have pledged my full co-operation to the Company, and I have the utmost confidence in our CEO, Victor Herrero, to continue leading the Company during this time,” Mr Marciano said.

Guess said in the statement that the company “takes very seriously any allegations of sexual misconduct, is committed to maintaining a safe work environment, and looks forward to the completion of a thorough investigation of all the facts”.

Guess shares fell 4.5 per cent to $14.84, taking its year-to-date slide to 12 per cent.

Over the past year, a string of revelations of harassment of women by well-known, powerful men has fuelled the #MeToo movement and intensified debate on the treatment of women in the workplace.

Susan Fowler, the software engineer who lifted the lid on sexual harassment at Uber, was one of the first who inspired women to speak out though the movement, which gained traction after allegations surfaced against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

More recently, Steve Wynn stepped down as chairman of casino company Wynn Resorts following a report by the Wall Street Journal that he had engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct.

Earlier this month, Lululemon’s chief executive abruptly resigned over what the company described as a breach of its standards of conduct.

Guess said the investigation into Mr Marciano’s behaviour is being conducted by the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and the special committee has retained Glaser Weil.

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