The New York Attorney General's office filed a bombshell civil rights lawsuit on Sunday against Harvey Weinstein and the co-founders of the Weinstein Co. for "egregious violations of New York's civil rights, human rights and business laws," pointing to a corporate culture which failed to protect employees from abusive behavior.
The filing is expected to be a major roadblock - if not derail entirely - the $500-million deal to sell the embattled studio to an investor group led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet - which was expected to be signed next week. Contreras-Sweet was previously the head of the Small Business Administration.
"The lawsuit, filed Sunday in New York County Supreme Court, jeopardizes the planned sale to Contreras-Sweet, backed by billionaire Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos., who has been in negotiations with the Weinstein Co. for weeks. The Contreras-Sweet deal would give her control over the studio's assets and promised to set up a majority-female board and establish a fund to help women who have alleged abuse by Weinstein." -LA Times
The 38-page filing by the NY AG details a series of abuses by co-founder and CEO Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused by 84 women of sexual assault or misconduct since allegations emerged in reports by the New York Times and New Yorker last October.
Schneiderman’s complaint details Harvey Weinstein issuing threats to TWC employees and the fact that the company had “a group of female employees whose primary job it was to accompany HW (sic) to events and to facilitate HW’s sexual conquests.” The complaint further states: “One of the members of this entourage was flown from London to New York to teach HW’s assistants how to dress and smell more attractive to HW.” -Variety
Follow-up reports by both publications detail Weinstein's decades of paying off abusers, as well as the disgraced mogul's use of undercover former Mossad spies - referred to him by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to intimidate his victims into silence, and halt negative publications about Weinstein.
"The Weinstein Co. repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement. "Any sale of The Weinstein Co. must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched. Every New Yorker has a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, intimidation and fear."
The complaint also cites instances in which Weinstein Co. senior managers failed to respond to employee complaints about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior. The complaint cites TWC’s “COO” but does not cite David Glasser by name. The four-month probe included “an exhaustive review of company records and emails,” according to the Attorney General. -Variety
According to documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the NY Attorney General is demanding that the company will establish a fund that will adequately compensate accusers - seeking assurances that the company will put the proceeds from any sale into escrow which would normally go to Harvey Weinstein or his brother and co-founder Bob. Moreover, Schneiderman's office has demanded oversight over any purchase agreement to ensure that the company takes appropriate measures to protect employees - a request that Contreras-Sweet has reportedly balked at.
The company is also accused of violating gender discrimination laws, as the Weinsteins and their company are accused of having "repeatedly and persistently treated female employees less well than male-employees through gender-based hostile workplace harassment, quid pro quo harassment, and discrimination," according to the lawsuit.
The New York AG filing also contains several new and salacious details from the Weinstein case. According to the complaint, in 2014 and 2015 Weinstein "exposed himself to a female employee and made her take dictation from him while he leered at her, naked on his bed. That same employee described how HW would insist that she sit next to him in the back seat of his chauffeured vehicle and would place his hand on her upper thigh and buttocks near her genitalia and rub her body without her consent. When she attempted to place bags or other barriers between them to make it harder for him to reach her, he moved the barriers or repositioned himself so that the unwelcome sexual contact could continue.”
The New York suit also seeks to force The Weinstein Co. to give up its non-disclosure (NDA) agreements with former employees in order to continue investigating the company.
”TWC’s culture of harassment and intimidation remained shrouded in secrecy because of HW’s and TWC’s practice of securing silence through Non-Disclosure Agreements (“NDAs”) that prohibited individuals from speaking about their experiences at TWC,” said the Attorney General's office.
Weinstein Co. is facing several other lawsuits, including a class-action filed in November accusing the studio of enabling Weinstein's behavior. No word if he will call Matt Damon, Benn Afflek, Donna Karan or Oliver Stone - all of whom defended the mogul, as character witnesses.