The Subway restaurant chain said it received a "serious" complaint about Jared Fogle when he was the company's spokesman but that the complaint did not imply any criminal sexual activity.
The company issued a statement Friday saying it has completed an internal investigation into whether it was alerted to concerns about Fogle, who agreed last month to plead guilty to having paid for sex acts with girls as young as 16 and having received child pornography. The company has severed its ties to him.
Subway's investigation included a review of more than a million online comments and interviews with past and present employees and managers of the company and an advertising fund, the statement said.
Subway spokeswoman Kristen McMahon said the company received the "serious" complaint in 2011 from Rochelle Herman-Walrond, a former journalist from Florida who revealed publicly to WWSB-TV in Sarasota last month that she also took her concerns to the FBI and secretly recorded her phone conversations with Fogle for more than four years to assist the agency's investigation.
McMahon said the 2011 complaint "expressed concerns about Mr. Fogle," but included "nothing that implied anything about sexual behavior or criminal activity involving Mr. Fogle." She declined to elaborate on the nature of the complaint.
Nevertheless, the company said in its statement that it regrets that the complaint was "not properly escalated or acted upon."
"It is important to note that the investigation found no further evidence of any other complaints of any kind regarding Mr. Fogle that were submitted to or shared with SUBWAY," the company said.
Neither Herman-Walrond nor Fogle's lawyers responded to phone message left Friday night seeking comment.
Herman-Walrond told WWSB-TV in July that she first spoke to Fogle about 10 years ago during one of his many trips to the Sarasota area for events like the American Heart Association Walk. She said Fogle often made surprising and inappropriate remarks when he spoke, including that he thought "middle school girls were hot."
Authorities in Indiana, where Fogle lives, would not say whether Herman-Walrond was part of their investigation into him. But Fogle's plea agreement mentions that witnesses in Florida, Georgia and Washington state provided recordings and information it says show Fogle "repeatedly discussed with them his interest in engaging in commercial sex acts with minors or stated that he has done so in the past."
Separately, a lawyer for former Subway franchisee Cindy Mills said she alerted an executive in charge of the company's advertising in 2008 after Fogle began talking to her about paying for sex with minors. The attorney said Mills also shared her concerns with a regional Subway contact in Florida, where she is based.
The executive, Jeff Moody, has denied being aware of Fogle's criminal sexual conduct. The company has said it does not have a record of any complaints by the former franchisee.