Embattled movie producer Harvey Weinstein was sued by New York state for creating a hostile work environment at the Weinstein Co. that allegedly featured” pervasive sexual harassment ,” intimidation and discrimination.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit comes as Weinstein, 65, is seeking to sell his distressed studio to Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former Obama administration official, in a $500 million bid backed by billionaire Ron Burkle. The suit may create a major obstacle for the deal.
Schneiderman said in a statement that the company’s marketing might leave victims” without adequate redress, including a lack of a sufficient victims compensation money .” While the suit isn’t aimed at blocking the sale to Contreras-Sweet’s group, the us attorney general said he wants to make certain that victims aren’t harmed by the transaction.
” Any sale of the Weinstein Co. must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched ,” Schneiderman said.
Weinstein, who faces a wave of sexual-assault claims stretching back to the 1970 s, was ousted from his studio in October 2017 after the New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine published accounts in which wives accused him of sexual harassment and rape. He has denied any non-consensual sexual activity.
A string of actresses have come forward to accuse the producer of sexually harassing or raping them in exchange for job assistance. Actress Dominique Huett claimed Weinstein masturbated in front of her and performed oral sex on her in 2010. She sued his studio for$ 5 million. Actress Uma Thurman, who starred in some of Weinstein’s hit movies, such as “Pulp Fiction” and the” Kill Bill” trilogy, also has accused the producer of attempting to sexually assault her in London in 1994.
” We believe that a fair investigations conducted by Mr. Schneiderman will show that many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are without merit ,” his lawyer, Ben Brafman, said in a statement.” While Mr. Weinstein’s behavior was not without defect, there surely was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more females to key executive positions than any other industry president .”
Weinstein will” vigorously defend itself” if Schneiderman seeks to “scapegoat” him, Brafman added.
In the suit filed Sunday, Schneiderman tries steep financial penalties from Weinstein, his brother and company co-founder Robert Weinstein, and the New York-based firm itself; victim restitution; and a court order that would negate non-disclosure arrangements signed by women who had linked with the producer.
The us attorney general is also demanding” judicial or other supervising” that will ensure the studio complies with terms of a settlement, and he wants to block any transaction that would strip its term of office from having legal authority over the company, according to the complaint filed in New York Supreme Court.
Contreras-Sweet, the former head of the Small Business Administration under Obama, offered to buy Weinstein’s studio and replace current directors with a majority of women. Contreras-Sweet’s investment group, which includes Burkle, would assume most of the debts of Weinstein Co. and create a fund to compensate victims of sexual harassment.
Representatives for Contreras-Sweet and Burkle didn’t immediately return calls and emails for comment.
The us attorney general said here Weinstein Co. has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the producer’s sexual misconduct.
Instead of moving to sanction Weinstein, administrators failed to investigate a series of sexual-harassment allegations levied against him, and instead applied strict non-disclosure arrangements to gag victims, according to courtroom filings. The lawsuit says that each brother has about 21 percentage of the voting shares and that Robert remains on the board.
The suit details numerous instances where Harvey Weinstein, identified in the complaint filed by his initials, allegedly assaulted, harassed or intimidated female employees. It claims that groups of women at the firm were feel compelled to” facilitate HW’s sexual conquests .”
” HW’s assistants were exposed to and to facilitate HW’s sex life as a condition of employment ,” Schneiderman said. None of the many complaints filed with the company’s human resources department” resulted in meaningful investigation or aid for victims, or repercussions for HW .”
The case is New York v. the Weinstein Co ., New York State supreme court( Manhattan ).