NEW YORK — A proposed sale of The Weinstein Co. is in question after New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit saying that any deal would have to include assurances of financial compensation for women harassed or abused by co-founder Harvey Weinstein.
“Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enables will be unjustly enriched,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a civil lawsuit filed Sunday.
The suit, filed in a state court, accused the movie producer of “repeatedly and persistently” sexually harassing female workers, in violation of state employment and civil rights law. It said the company had an atmosphere of “pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination.”
The attorney general’s office said the lawsuit was filed on Sunday partly due to reports of the company’s imminent sale to an investment group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, who was the chief administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama.
Schneiderman launched a probe of The Weinstein Co. in October after The New York Times and The New Yorker reported on allegations by multiple actresses and models who said Weinstein coerced them into unwanted sex. Some women have accused Weinstein of raping them.
Harvey Weinstein has repeatedly denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex. His New York attorney, Ben Brafman, released a statement Sunday evening saying many of the allegations against 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.
Weinstein was fired by the film company last year. He and his brother, Robert, still own a large chunk of the company.
In his lawsuit, Schneiderman said that in addition to the sexual harassment and alleged assaults that have captured public attention, Weinstein’s employees had to endure verbal threats such as, “I will kill you, I will kill your family, and “you don’t know what I can do.”