The New York Attorney General’s office has filed a blistering civil rights lawsuit against the Weinstein Co. and its founders, detailing a company culture that routinely violated the state’s human rights laws and business regulations.
The 38-page complaint features a litany of abuses at the company by co-founder and former co-CEO Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by dozens of women since last fall. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman initiated an investigation of the company after extensive reports of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct were published in October by the New York Times and the New Yorker.
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 refer to David Glasser by name.
The four-month probe included “an exhaustive review of company records and emails,” according to the Attorney General. Moreover, the company is accused of violating gender discrimination laws given the environment that female employees faced. The Weinsteins and their company “repeatedly and persistently treated female employees less well than male-employees through gender-based hostile workplace harassment, quid pro quo harassment, and discrimination,” per the lawsuit.
The state’s move comes days before the Weinstein Co. was set to finalize a sale of the beleaguered company to an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, the former Small Business Administration head under the Obama administration. But work in the finishing touches of the $500 million acquisition halted this weekend as word surfaced of the Attorney General’s plan to file suit. Schneiderman is seeking to have a measure of oversight into the company’s activities even after a sale given the level of violations outlined in the complaint. Those efforts may well be a deal-breaker for the investor group. Complicating matters further is the fact that Glasser was set to be named CEO of TWC after the sale.
The attorney general’s office expedited the filing of the lawsuit in order to influence the outcome of the sale. According to the suit, prosecutors were worried that the deal would “fail to protect adequately TWC employees who would be reporting to some of the same managers (including TWC’s Chief Operating Officer (“COO”)) who failed to investigate HW’s ongoing misconduct or adequately protect female employees from HW when HW served as co-CEO of TWC.”
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.”
Regarding TWC senior managers, the lawsuit cites exchanges between Glasser and TWC’s “human resources director” about Harvey Weinstein-related complaints in which settlements and non-disclosure agreements are needed. The complaint also states that “on more than one occasion, upon forwarding a complaint or information about a complaint to the COO, the Human Resources Director was not involved in any investigation or resolution process. Based on documents obtained by the OAG to date, such matters were handled by the COO and other members of TWC senior management, as well as counsel retained to contact victims of misconduct.”
Moreover, Bob Weinstein (or “RW” as he’s cited in the complaint) failed to live up to his obligations to TWC employees in his role as co-chairman and CEO. By 2014 and 2015, Bob Weinstein was aware of sexual misconduct allegations against his brother. “RW acquiesced in allowing HW to create a hostile work environment and engage in sexual misconduct that was known to him, or which he was responsible for preventing,” the suit states.
The lawsuit adds more lurid details to the picture that has emerged of Harvey Weinstein, once one of the most powerful figures in the film industry, as an alleged predator. In 2014 and 2015, the complaint states, “HW 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 suit also states that Weinstein was routinely verbally abusive, and would claim that he had connections to the Secret Service who could solve problems for him.
“HW told several employees throughout the relevant time period that, in substance, ‘I will kill you,’ ‘I will kill your family,’ and ‘You don’t know what I can do,’ or words to that effect,” the suit states.
Schneiderman seeks to force TWC to give up its NDA agreements with past employees to facilitate the various investigations against 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,” the Attorney General’s office said.
Schneiderman also asks the judge to allow the state to monitor the goings-on at TWC if the sale moves forward, or as described in the complaint: “Judicial or other supervision of compliance with the prohibitions on continued unlawful conduct.”