MANHATTAN (CN) – Saying there is little time left to hold Harvey Weinstein’s former company accountable for his career-ending pattern of sexual predation, the New York attorney general filed suit Sunday for civil penalties.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman emphasized that his investigation remains ongoing but that court intervention is necessary now because a buyout of The Weinstein Company could “leave victims without adequate redress, including a lack of a sufficient victims compensation fund.”
Schneiderman “also believes that the proposed terms of the sale would allow the perpetrators or enablers of the misconduct to see a windfall, and allow top officials at TWC who share responsibility for the misconduct to serve in executive positions of the new entity,” his office added, using an abbreviation for The Weinstein Co.
At a press conference Monday afternoon on the petition, Schneiderman laid out the criteria his office demands of any future deal that would acquire the Weinstein Company and its assets. “That’s why that it is critically important that any deal to buy the company’s assets ensure first that victims will be adequately compensated; two, that employees will be protected moving forward; and three, that company executives who perpetuated or enabled the pervasive sexual misconduct at TWC will not be rewarded,” he told reporters.
The New York Post reported Sunday that Schneiderman’s suit in Manhattan Supreme Court caused Maria Contreras-Sweet to pull her nearly $500 million offer to buy TWC.
Schneiderman told reporters Monday his office has not received any communication from Contreras-Sweet, who had been the head of the Small Business Administration under former President Barack Obaama.
“They asserted that they were somehow blocked from doing that by the Weinstein Company; Bob Weinstein gave an interview yesterday to Deadline calling that a lie,” Schneiderman said. “We’ll let them sort it out, but we have not received any cooperation from Ms. Contreras-Sweet or her attorneys.”
Weinstein, who turns 66 next month, is described in the petition of “repeatedly and persistently” subjecting the women in his employ to sexual harassment.
The petition also accuses Weinstein’s producing partner and brother, Weinstein Co. co-founder Robert Weinstein, of ignoring at least 12 years of credible claims of harassment and abuse.
“Instead of investigating and taking prompt corrective action, TWC and [Robert Weinstein] used settlements that contained strict [nondisclosure agreements] to keep law enforcement, the public, and even other TWC employees from discovering the extensive allegations of misconduct against [Harvey Weinstein,” the 38-page petition states.
At his press conference Monday, Schneiderman called it clear “that the company’s management was complicit in this pattern of misconduct.
“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen here,” Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman says these NDA-containing settlements were enforced against company employees and many witnesses to Harvey Weinstein’s unlawful conduct separately
“In this way, TWC and RW enabled HW’s unlawful conduct to continue far beyond the date when, through reasonable diligence, it should have been stopped,” the petition states.
Schneiderman began the investigation in October 2017, after the allegations against Weinstein were brought to the fore in a series of exposes by The New York Times and The New Yorker.
The lawsuit alleges unlawful gender discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of state executive, civil rights and human rights laws, as well as the penal code and various city statutes.
According to the petition, at any given time, Weinstein employed up to five female assistants who were tasked with scheduling, arranging, and facilitating his sexual encounters, which were referred to at the company as his “personals.”
It quotes a witness as saying Weinstein’s personal assistants and drivers were required to have Weinstein’s erectile-dysfunction injections at the ready in a “go bag” when he was going to rendezvous with his “personals.”
The complaint seeks an order directing Weinstein to pay restitution and damages, plus civil penalties to the state of New York.
Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman called the allegations “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,” Brafman said in a statement.
Brafman accused Schneiderman of seeking to exploit the “Time’s Up” reckoning of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the film and television industry.
“If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr. Weinstein will embrace the investigation,” Brafman said. “If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself.”
Schneiderman disputed that Weinstein is facing harsher treatment.
“We are not asking for anything that has not been done in other cases,” Schneiderman said. “The facts here are just more shocking and flamboyant.”
Representatives for the Weinstein Company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.