Harvey Weinstein’s board of directors were culpable in his years of sexual harassment and bullying against women, the state attorney general contended Monday, and he’s pushing back against any plans to give them more power in the future.
During a news conference about his ongoing civil rights suit against the disgraced Hollywood mogul, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he was appalled by the details of the pending $500 million sale of The Weinstein Company to an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet.
The deal reportedly had no compensation to Weinstein’s victims, and kept several Weinstein board members in top positions, including COO David Glasser who Schneiderman said was poised to be the CEO of the new company.
“This complaint reflects the conduct of Harvey Weinstein, but what it’s really about is corporate liability,” he said.
Schneiderman’s suit, which was filed Sunday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, claims that Harvey Weinstein, his brother Robert — who was co-CEO of the company — and its board violated the state’s civil rights, human rights, and business laws by allowing the harassment to continue. Glasser, in particular, was forwarded several complaints from women about Harvey Weinstein’s lewd behavior, such as hiring “wing women” to facilitate his sexual conquests, but he didn’t fully investigate the claims, according to Schneiderman’s office.
The attorney general is looking for an unspecified amount of restitution and damages, plus penalties for harm to victims.
The sale of the Weinstein Company, which has over 250 employees, to the investment group was reportedly imminent, but on hold Sunday in light of the lawsuit, according to a source familiar with the deal.
The source also said Contreras-Sweet was in talks with the attorney general’s office over the weekend and was scheduled to have a longer conversation Monday about the deal, which would include setting up an all-female board and providing compensation.
The attorney general is urging anyone looking to purchase the Weinstein company to take serious considerations before signing the dotted line. In addition to the removal of Glasser and other board members, the attorney general called for adequate compensation to the sexual harassment victims and for stronger employee protections moving forward.
“Both the board and management have legal obligations to stop this. This is not optional,” he said.
Weinstein’s attorney Ben Brafman said the lawsuit would prove that the sex harassment allegations were without merit.
“If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr. Weinstein will embrace the investigation. If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself,” he said in a statement.