The state of New York has filed a lawsuit against The Weinstein Company for “egregious” civil rights violations that include “vicious and exploitative mistreatment of company employees,” the attorney general’s office said.
“The suit, filed today in New York County Supreme Court, includes new and extensive allegations about longtime company CEO Harvey Weinstein’s vicious and exploitative mistreatment of company employees,” the office said in a statement.
“Today’s suit includes numerous employee-victim accounts of sexual harassment, intimidation, and other misconduct,” the statement continues.
The lawsuit, filed by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, names Harvey and Bob Weinstein, as well as the Weinstein Company, as its sole defendants, creating a potential hurdle for investors Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle, who were reportedly days away from purchasing the embattled independent film company.
Some of the allegations in the lawsuit include claims of death threats, the hiring of women forced to accompany Weinstein to events and aiding his sexual conquests, quid pro quo offers to employees in exchange for sexual favors, and multiple cases of sexual abuse and harassment.
“Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched,” the lawsuit reads. “Every New Yorker has a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, intimidation, and fear.”
Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said that many of the allegations his client 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.
“If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr. Weinstein will embrace the investigation,” he continued. “If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself.”
Meanwhile, The Weinstein Company argued that many of the accusations were “inaccurate,” having already rejected a settlement offer last week.
“With respect to the Company’s ongoing sale process, the Board sought a transaction to preserve jobs and create a victim fund,” the board said, adding that it hoped to continue negotiations “in order to reach our common goal of bringing this situation to an appropriate resolution.”
Bob Weinstein also told Deadline that he was an “eternal optimist and [remained] hopeful that all the parties can get together and make a deal.”
The emergence of numerous sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein has led to nearly 90 women accusing the disgraced movie mogul of sexual crimes ranging from harassment to rape, and sparked a wider scandal across the entertainment and media industries.