Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein used highly restrictive non-disclosure agreements and large cash payouts to silence victims of his alleged sexual abuse for decades, according to the latest investigative effort from The New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow.
According to the New Yorker, Weinstein paid out a $1 million settlement to Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in 2015, after the model accused him of sexually assaulting her. In exchange, Gutierrez signed a non-disclosure agreement that prohibited her from speaking about the settlement and required her to turn over her cellphone and email passwords to attorneys to ensure she did not keep a copy of any recordings she had made of him.
The New Yorker had previously reported that Gutierrez participated in a sting operation conducted by New York police in 2015, in which the model wore a wire to a meeting with Weinstein and appeared to catch him on tape admitting he had groped her.
In Tuesday’s latest piece, Farrow reported that Weinstein hired the private intelligence firm K2 after Gutierrez went to the police, with the firm’s task being to ensure Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance did not press criminal charges against him. Weinstein also reportedly hired Italian private investigators to dig up any dirt they could find on Gutierrez, which they then shared with the prosecutors’ office. Two weeks after she had gone to the police, the D.A.’s office declined to pursue charges against Weinstein.
Farrow also reported that Weinstein attorneys made campaign contributions to Vance both before and after the decision was made not to press charges.
Ultimately, Gutierrez said, she felt she had no choice to but accept a settlement. The settlement included a signed statement from Gutierrez, to be released in the event she broke the agreement, in which she stated that the behavior she accused Weinstein of had never happened.
“I was forced by the fact that newspapers completely bashed me, by the fact that I was alone, by the fact that I was twenty-two years old,” Gutierrez told the New Yorker. “I knew if he could move the press in this way, I couldn’t fight him.”
Farrow’s article describes other settlements Weinstein made with his accusers in this manner, by using non-disclosure agreements and large sums of money.
Zelda Perkins, a former assistant to Weinstein during his time at Disney-owned Miramax in the late 1990s, told the outlet that Weinstein constantly sexually harassed her, including being fully naked around her. Perkins hired her own assistant in 1998 and reportedly warned applicants about Weinstein’s behavior. When her assistant left her first meeting alone with Weinstein in tears, saying the mogul had assaulted her, Perkins confronted her boss, and then both she and her assistant resigned from Miramax.
Perkins said that as soon as she threatened to sue Miramax, she received a barrage of pleading phone calls from company executives, including Weinstein.
After reportedly being told by their attorneys that Disney would “crush” them in any sexual assault lawsuit they brought, the pair allegedly accepted a settlement of 250,000 pounds, or $600,000 at the time, and signed a non-disclosure agreement.
According to Farrow, the settlement money came directly from the personal bank account of Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother and Miramax partner, who has denied he had knowledge of the extent of Harvey’s alleged abuses.
“Regarding that payment, I only know what Harvey told me, and basically what he said was he was fooling around with two women and they were asking for money,” Bob Weinstein told the New Yorker. “And he didn’t want his wife to find out, so he asked me if I could write a check, and so I did, but there was nothing to indicate any kind of sexual harassment.”
Perkins’s agreement also reportedly included measures intended to prevent other women from being abused by Weinstein. According to the article, as part of the settlement, Weinstein was required to undergo therapy, with the therapist to be selected by Perkins herself. The agreement also required Disney to be notified of any sexual harassment settlements entered into by Weinstein.
Accounts of Weinstein’s financial settlements with his alleged victims were first reported by the New York Times in early October. The paper reported that Weinstein had reached settlements with at least eight women over a period of decades, including with actress Rose McGowan, who was allegedly paid $100,000 in exchange for not pressing charges.
“That was very painful,” McGowan told Farrow for Tuesday’s story. “I thought a hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money at the time, because I was a kid.”
Weinstein has since been accused of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse by more than eighty women, including at least ten who have accused him of rape. The disgraced Oscar-winner is reportedly currently in Arizona, where he had been seeking treatment at a rehabilitation facility.
In a statement to the magazine, Weinstein’s attorneys said they were confident that Weinstein would “prevail against any claim of legal wrongdoing.”
“Mr. Weinstein categorically denies ever engaging in any non-consensual sexual conduct with anyone and any suggestion that he acted improperly to defend himself against such claims is simply wrong,” they said.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum