The Weinstein Co. has hired a top employment practices attorney to defend it from sexual harassment suits, including one brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Gerald Maatman, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, filed a motion on Tuesday defending the company from a proposed class-action case. Maatman is a go-to attorney for companies facing discrimination suits from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the motion, Maatman argued for the dismissal of a proposed class-action racketeering suit brought by six actresses in December. He contends that Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct is barred by the statute of limitations, and that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the company as a whole was responsible for Weinstein’s behavior.
“Virtually all of the alleged conduct about which Plaintiffs complain in the Complaint was committed by H. Weinstein, acting alone, between 10 and 25 years ago,” Maatman argues.
Maatman will also be handling the company’s defense to the discrimination suit filed last week by Schneiderman’s office. That case alleged that the company was aware of Weinstein’s pattern of sexual harassment, and had failed to protect employees and others.
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Maatman has taken on the New York attorney general’s office before. In the late 1990s, he represented Garban LLC, a brokerage firm accused of fostering a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination. In that case, brokers were accused of hiring strippers to appear at work functions, making inappropriate sexual remarks to female colleagues, and circulating pornography around the office. The attorney general at the time, Dennis Vacco, sought $10 million. The case settled two years later, under Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, for $200,000.
The Weinstein Co. is eager to sell in order to avert bankruptcy. A deal to sell the company to a group backed by investor Ron Burkle was close to being finalized last week, when the Schneiderman suit upended the negotiations and put everything on hold.