Weinstein Victims Get $19M Payout, Are Released From NDAs

Pilar Melendez, Lachlan Cartwright
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Several women who were sexually harassed and assaulted by Harvey Weinstein have been awarded $19 million as part of a class-action lawsuit aided by the New York Attorney General, officials said Tuesday. 

The payout, which still needs to be approved by the bankruptcy and district courts, are part of an attempt to resolve two lawsuits. The first, a 2018 lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General against the Weinstein Company, was first reported by The Daily Beast. It alleged the 68-year-old movie mogul maintained a hostile work environment. The second was a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of women sexually assaulted by Weinstein.

“Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company failed their female employees. After all the harassment, threats, and discrimination, their victims are finally receiving some justice,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a Tuesday statement. “For more than two years, my office has fought tirelessly in the pursuit of justice for the women whose lives were upended by Harvey Weinstein.”

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James added: “This agreement is a win for every woman who has experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or retaliation by her employer. I thank the brave women who came forward to share their stories with my office. I will forever carry their stories in my heart and never stop fighting for the right of every single person to be able to work harassment-free.”

Tuesday’s payout came three months after Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexually assaulting former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haleyi and raping former actress Jessica Mann. Throughout his four-week trial in Manhattan, prosecutors argued Weinstein abused his power in the entertainment industry and preyed on dozens of women for more than three decades with the promise to kickstart their careers in exchange for sex acts.

While the trial focused on six women who were abused by Weinstein, Tuesday’s agreement highlighted the scores of women who experienced hostile working conditions or gender-based discrimination at the Weinstein Company. 

“We fought a long and grueling battle in the courtroom,” Caitlin Dulany, who previously accused Weinstein of sexual assault and was a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, said in a statement. “Harvey avoided accountability for decades, and it was a powerful moment for us to band together and demand justice. Knowing that we will help so many women who are long overdue for relief gives me hope that this settlement will continue to empower others to speak.”

Harvey Weinstein’s attorney Imran H. Ansari of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins PC, said in a statement to The Daily Beast that “With closure in sight on one front, Mr. Weinstein remains intently focused in defending himself on all remaining legal matters, including the appeal of his criminal conviction, civil lawsuits, and the charges filed against him in L.A. He continues to pursue all legal recourse available to him and remains steadfast in the defense of those matters.”

According to the 2018 lawsuit, Weinstein “created a hostile work environment by repeatedly and persistently sexually harassing female employees, including frequently remarking on female employees’ physical appearance, berating female employees, and requiring female employees to perform work while he was naked or only partially dressed.” In addition to subjecting female employees to demeaning work tasks, like procuring his erectile dysfunction injections and cleaning up after his sexual encounters, the lawsuit alleged Weinstein forced many of the women to engage in unwanted sexual conduct under the guise of career advancement. 

Weinstein’s brother, Robert, and the company also allegedly aided and abetted these working conditions by waiting to investigate the slew of complaints against the Pulp Fiction producer, the lawsuit stated. 

“Harvey Weinstein left a trail of trauma that was crushing for many women,” Louisette Geiss, co-chair of the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee, said in a statement.

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As previously reported by The Daily Beast, some of Weinstein’s accusers claimed last October they were being pressured to accept a low-ball deal to end the plethora of lawsuits against the disgraced producer. The previously proposed settlement, according to several people with knowledge of the situation, granted the women only $47 million, and nearly a third of that sum—$14 million—would have gone toward Weinstein’s defense fees. The remaining $33 million would have been divided among creditors of Weinstein’s former studio, former employees, and the alleged victims. 

According to the people familiar with the matter at the time, 25 percent of the victims’ windfall would have gone to paying the class-action lawyers.

But Tuesday’s agreement ensured that victims were entitled to get restitution from a $18,875,000 victims’ compensation fund, the attorney general’s office said. The settlement also ensured the women would be released from any confidentiality, non-disclosure, or non-disparagement agreements they signed with the Weinstein company—allowing some to tell their stories for the first time without fear of retribution.

“This settlement is truly a testament to the survivors, who not only faced their trauma head-on but also bravely advocated on behalf of all of those who feared speaking out because of the threats to their reputation and their careers,” Elizabeth A. Fegan, an attorney involved in the settlement, said.

“The plaintiffs selflessly used their combined efforts to secure a fund, which will allow all survivors of Weinstein’s abuse to apply for meaningful, confidential relief. These women insisted their voices be heard and created a powerful example of how we can fight collectively for equitable justice.”

Douglas Wigdor, an attorney representing several Weinstein victims who have not signed on to the settlement, labeled it a “complete sellout.” 

“While we do not begrudge any survivor who truly wants to participate in this deal, as we understand the proposed agreement, it is deeply unfair for many reasons. First, Harvey Weinstein accepts no responsibility for his actions. Second, Harvey Weinstein isn’t paying any money toward the settlement despite now having been found guilty in Manhattan criminal court. Third, the director defendants, who we allege had knowledge of Weinstein’s behavior, will be receiving millions of dollars to reimburse their defense costs. Fourth, if this settlement were approved by the courts, survivors who do not wish to participate in settlement but would prefer instead to hold Harvey Weinstein accountable, will be unable to pursue the multi-billion dollar insurance companies and the directors, because they will receive legal releases. And Fifth, the class-action lawyers will be seeking millions of dollars in fees for an objectively unsuccessful result. We are completely astounded that the Attorney General is taking a victory lap for this unfair and inequitable proposal, and on behalf of our clients, we will be vigorously objecting in court.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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