Brandy Melville employees say the fast-fashion brand is built on exploitation and discrimination

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Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Matt Turner, Insider’s co-Editor in Chief of business. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday. Plus, download Insider’s app for news on the go – click here for iOS and here for Android.

Here’s what we’re going over today:


Girl with Brandy Melville sign
Girl with Brandy Melville sign Courtesy of Weathered Signs

What’s trending this morning:


Brandy Melville “needs to be shut down,” staffers say

More than 30 current and former staffers of cult teen fast-fashion brand Brandy Melville described a business built on the exploitation of young women. Execs fired hundreds of girls based on height, weight, race, and attractiveness, per the staffers, and higher-ups would cross professional boundaries:

“If I could say anything to the owners, I would say: ‘You had such an amazing opportunity to be a safe, inclusive space for young women, and instead you took advantage of them,'” Mina Marlena, a former employee, said.

“People don’t realize how corrupt this company is,” a current employee at a Massachusetts store said. “It’s a disgusting company, and the company needs to be shut down.”

The CEO broadcasts his prejudices to executives, calling Black people primitive and claiming that women only create problems, Sorgi said. But to secure their spot in the world of Brandy Melville, employees at all levels said they had to endure – and often enforce – Marsan’s beliefs.

Get the inside scoop on Brandy Melville:

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Skyscraper queen Darcy Stacom’s staffers speak out

Darcy Stacom, Head of the NYC Capital Markets Group at CBRE, with a crown dangling off her hand surrounded by StuyTown apartments, GM Building, Chelsea Market signage, and the Chrysler building with the Statue of Liberty and pigeons behind her on a red background.
Darcy Stacom is nicknamed the “Queen of the Skyscrapers” for her role in buying and selling New York properties, including (from right) Chelsea Market, the Chrysler Building, the GM Building, and Stuyvesant Town. Brendan McDermid/Reuters; Samantha Lee/Insider

The country’s top real-estate broker buys and sells NYC’s priciest buildings – but working for her meant exposure to beratement and tirades, according to former staffers:

“I have never worked with someone on a professional level where they didn’t even know me and the only thing they had to tell me was that my business and I were a joke,” a florist said of Stacom.

Unleashing rage has worked for Stacom. Today, she runs the team that handles the sales of New York City’s priciest and most prestigious properties, including the Chrysler Building, for the world’s largest real-estate-services firm, CBRE.

Behind the accolades is a pattern of troubling behavior, said some of the people who have worked for her. They described an executive with a hair-trigger temper who was not only demanding but also habitually volatile and abusive.

Read how the real-estate mogul runs her empire with an iron fist:

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Meet Michael Saylor, king of ‘electric money’

Michael Saylor, co-founder of MicroStrategy, with Bitcoin logos scattered behind him on a red-to-black gradient background

Michael Saylor once lost $US6 ($AU8) billion in one day, but he’s shed that reputation. The new bitcoin guru has been betting big on digital currencies – and it has paid off handsomely:

Before his bitcoin bet, Saylor was perhaps best known as the man who lost more than $US6 ($AU8) billion in what’s been described as the “greatest single-day hit to personal wealth in capital markets history.” So notable was the loss that it was even featured as a question in the board game Trivial Pursuit.

After MicroStrategy’s stock crashed in 2000, Saylor kept the business alive through the sheer force of his personality and his “tenaciousness,” according to one former MicroStrategy executive who worked closely with Saylor. “The company should not have survived. It should have died,” the former employee said.

“Michael has a brilliant mind and a seemingly infinite capacity for detail and precision. Working with him over the long term takes a special person,” Marge Breya, a former chief marketing officer who briefly served on MicroStrategy’s board, told Insider.

Read the complete profile of the bitcoin guru:

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Elizabeth Holmes takes round one

Elizabeth Holmes trial sketch.

Ex-Theranos leader Elizabeth Holmes’ defense team made compelling arguments in the opening round of the high-profile Silicon Valley trial on Wednesday. The prosecution portrayed Holmes as a liar with bad intentions. As Adam Lashinsky reports, the defense argued that Holmes was guilty of nothing more than naivete:

Robert Leach, an assistant US attorney who did a stint at the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the jury why Holmes should be convicted.

“This case is about fraud, about lying, and about cheating to get money,” he said. He walked through the lowlights of Theranos: how the pharma bigs Pfizer and Schering-Plough declined to work with it. How the company was repeatedly “out of time and out of money.”

In contrast, Lance Wade, a defense attorney at the DC law firm Williams & Connolly, is a graceful, plain-spoken storyteller who couldn’t have been clearer about his message for the jury.

“Elizabeth Holmes did not go to work every day intending to lie, cheat, and steal,” he began. “Elizabeth Holmes worked herself to the bone for 15 years trying to make lab testing cheaper and more accessible. She poured her heart and her soul into that effort. Now, in the end, Theranos failed, and Miss Holmes walked away with nothing. But failure is not a crime.”

Go inside the courtroom with our report::

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Finally, here are some headlines you might have missed last week.

– Matt


Compiled with help from Phil Rosen.