×

Harvey Weinstein Scandal Leaves His Company ‘Extremely Vulnerable’

The Weinstein Company faces potential legal jeopardy in the wake of a New York Times expose detailing sexual harassment claims against co-chairman Harvey Weinstein.

Though the cases referenced in the story have been settled, it is now possible that new accusers could come forward.

“His company is extremely vulnerable,” says Debbie Katz, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents plaintiffs in harassment suits. “The board has been on notice that there is significant misconduct, settlement moneys have been paid, and there has been no corrective action.”

The Times story alleged a pattern of behavior, in which Weinstein would meet with actresses or young female employees at hotel rooms. According to the story, he would either expose himself or encourage the women to give him nude massages. A former employee, Lauren O’Connor, made a detailed complaint about Weinstein’s behavior, which reached the board level. However, according to the Times, the complaint was quickly settled and the board opted not to investigate.

Weinstein announced Thursday that he would take a leave of absence, prompting some to conclude that more allegations are yet to come.

“I don’t think the full story is out,” said attorney Mark Geragos. “If he’s stepping aside, they’ve obviously made a calculation this is a very serious matter.”

It is possible that other women who experienced misconduct and who will now be emboldened to come forward.

“It’s a pattern of behavior,” says Courtney Abrams, a Los Angeles attorney at Helmer Friedman LLP. “Usually what happens when a sexual harassment lawsuit is filed is that other women feel there’s safety in numbers.”

The key question, as far as legal liability is concerned, is whether the alleged activity falls within the statute of limitations. In California, where much of the misconduct in the Times story is alleged to have occurred, plaintiffs must file an administrative charge with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within a year. Once that is filed, they have another year to file a lawsuit.

“I’m sure we’ll be hearing from more people about what their experiences were with him,” says plaintiff’s attorney Lisa Maki. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Though Weinstein disputes many of the allegations, and his attorney has even threatened to sue the Times, he has been careful not to disparage any of the accusers. Doing so could expose him to defamation claims.

Weinstein also apologized on Thursday and said he had retained attorney Lisa Bloom, who typically represents plaintiffs in high-profile harassment cases, to help educate him about harassment and help him “grow into a better man.”

Katz said she found that response “insulting,” and not a serious reaction to allegations of decades of systemic misconduct.

“He knows what the law is,” she said. “Someone who has his power and abuses his power does it because he can, not because he doesn’t know it’s wrong.”

Katz said the Weinstein Company’s response so far has been wholly inadequate.

“They need to bring in a credible outside entity to investigate,” she said. “Employees need to be given really serious assurances that there will be no retaliation. They’re looking to see which way this thing is going to go — is Weinstein going to continue or be pushed out?”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Snoop Dogg Weed

    In the Cannabis Business, Not All Star Strains Are Created Equal

    With the cannabis green rush in full swing, many celebrities are jumping into the fray with their own brands, including such well-known stoners as Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong. But as it turns out, not all star strains are created equal, so we assembled a trio of crack experts to put the product [...]

  • Richard Branson Jason Felts

    Kaaboo Festival Acquired by Virgin Fest Owner Jason Felts

    Kaaboo, which says it has “shifted the music festival paradigm by offering a highly amenitized festival experience for adults,” is now under new ownership. Virgin Fest founder and CEO Jason Felts (pictured above with Virgin founder Richard Branson) has fully acquired all of the festival brand assets through an affiliate of Virgin Fest, the music [...]

  • Live Nation Chief Michael Rapino Talks

    Live Nation-Ticketmaster Chief Michael Rapino Talks Dept. of Justice Inquiries

    Back in August, Senators Richard Blumenthal of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota made the most recent of several requests for an Department of Justice antitrust investigation into competition in the ticketing industry, and it soon became clear that the target of the probe was Live Nation and its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster, which [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

  • 2020 TV Season Preview

    How 2020's Fall TV Season Is Already Shaping Up

    Aiming to stand out in a crowded field, broadcasters this season have leaned on the stability of their schedules and the return of established hits. But for many of the same reasons, they’ve also begun to seed the ground for next year’s crop of shows, considering that top performers like “How to Get Away With [...]

  • Taylor Swift Talks Scott Borchetta’s ‘Sneaky’

    Taylor Swift Talks Scott Borchetta's 'Betrayal,' 'Sneaky' Deal With Scooter Braun

    While Taylor Swift’s sprawling Rolling Stone cover interview is largely about her music and herself, there’s also plenty about the personal and business dramas of the last three years. And not surprisingly, Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta — who this summer inked a reported $300 million deal for the Big Machine Records catalog and with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content