New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Harvey Weinstein in state court on Sunday, alleging that employees of the former movie mogul and his company endured “pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination.”
Weinstein’s younger brother, Bob, who co-founded and owns the Weinstein Co., was also named in the suit, which could complicate the company’s sale: Schneiderman said in a statement that sale terms must ensure compensation for Weinstein’s alleged victims.
In a statement, a lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, Ben Brafman, said that Schneiderman’s investigation will show that many of the allegations against the former producer are “without merit.”
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“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,” Brafman said, adding that Weinstein will “embrace” the suit if its purpose is to reform the entertainment industry.
“If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself,” Brafman said.
A lawyer for Bob Weinstein, who the suit alleges failed to stop his brother’s actions, did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Harvey Weinstein hasn’t been charged with any crimes and has repeatedly denied “allegations of non-consensual sex.”
The suit comes after a four-month investigation that included interviews with employees, executives and “survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct,” the documents say. Schneiderman’s office also reviewed company records and emails.
According to the suit, Harvey Weinstein threatened to kill employees and their families, bragged about how his Secret Service contacts could “take care of problems” and used female employees to “facilitate sexual conquests of vulnerable women.”
He also allegedly made offers of career advancement in exchange for sexual favors, the suit says.
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Despite repeated complaints about the alleged behavior, the company’s human resources director and other managers didn’t investigate the allegations, the suit says. Bob Weinstein, who has called his brother “a very sick man” and a “world class liar,” was also told of the alleged misconduct four years ago, it says, but didn’t end it.
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The suit seeks unspecified damages and $500 to $500,000 per violation of civil and human rights laws.
In his statement, Schneiderman said the proposed sale of the company could “leave victims without adequate redress, including a lack of a sufficient victims compensation fund.”
His office “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 — where they would again oversee the adjudication of [human resources] complaints, including those of sexual harassment, intimidation, and assault.”
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the company’s board responded: “Many of the allegations relating to the Board are inaccurate and the Board looks forward to bringing the facts to light as part of its ongoing commitment to resolve this difficult situation in the most appropriate way.”
The company’s board fired Harvey Weinstein in October after a New York Times report alleged decades of sexual misconduct. In the months since, dozens of women have accused him of misconduct and he has faced numerous lawsuits from, among others, actresses, a scriptwriter and a personal assistant.
He could also face criminal charges. Los Angeles police last week sent three cases to prosecutors in which women accused Weinstein of sex crimes. Authorities didn’t provide additional details.