State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Sunday filed a civil rights lawsuit against The Weinstein Company and Hollywood producers Harvey and Robert Weinstein, alleging “egregious violations” of the state’s human rights and business laws.
The litigation comes at a time when the brothers’ company could be sold to an investor group and Schneiderman said in a news release he is concerned that a sale could “leave victims without adequate redress, including a lack of a sufficient victims compensation fund” and allow “the perpetrators or enablers of the misconduct to see a windfall.”
He said any sale “must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched.”
The state attorney general launched an investigation in October into the company as accusations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein — and a subsequent cover-up — began to surface. The probe remains ongoing. The suit was filed electronically in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman of Manhattan, said in a statement: “We believe that a fair investigation by Mr. Schneiderman will demonstrate that many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are without merit. While Mr. Weinstein’s behavior was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC.”
Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women - New York, said in a statement: “Allowing the sale of this company without forcing its leadership to answer for its complicity and failure to protect women from abuse would be an affront to the women of Hollywood and every working woman.”
The state’s suit alleges that the company’s management, including Robert Weinstein, had knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct for years but declined to investigate multiple complaints or take steps to protect employees from “pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination” and to prevent future incidents.
The company and Robert Weinstein are additionally accused of using strict nondisclosure agreements to silence victims and keep law enforcement, the public and other employees “from discovering the extensive allegations of misconduct” against Harvey Weinstein, the lawsuit states.
The suit accuses Harvey Weinstein of using his influence and power in Hollywood to “exploit” his employees and women seeking job opportunities within the company. He engaged in quid pro quo sexual harassment, the lawsuit states, and allegedly touched women and threatened others with their jobs to force them to facilitate his sexual activity.
“Key members” of the company’s management were “fully aware” of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct, “yet they did not take reasonable steps to investigate or stop it,” the suit states. Some members of management allegedly “deliberately looked the other way or took actions that enabled” Harvey Weinstein to retaliate against employees who complained.
The NYPD is also investigating rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein.