One of the most bizarre reveals of the Harvey Weinstein scandal was that the mogul believed that being fired from The Weinstein Company as a result of sexual assault allegations represented a violation of his rights. In the email he sent to would-be Hollywood allies, he wrote: “We believe what the board is trying to do is not only wrong but might be illegal and would destroy the company.” On Oct. 10, he hired attorney Patty Glaser specifically to negotiate with TWC — rather than defend him against the scores of women who accused him of sexual harassment and rape.
In what realm would a company be prohibited from terminating an alleged serial sexual predator? The answer may lie in Weinstein’s employment contract. According to TMZ, Weinstein’s most recent TWC employment contract stated that if he ever “treated someone improperly in violation of the company’s Code of Conduct,” he would be obligated to reimburse any company funds that go towards judgments and settlements — but not fired.
There were also structured, graduated penalties in place. “[Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance,” per the apparent contract. Together, the paid reimbursement and damages would act as a “cure” for any wrongdoings.
Representatives for TWC and Weinstein did not return calls for comment at press time.
In the Oct. 5 New York Times investigation that led to Weinstein’s ousting, reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey found Weinstein paid at least eight settlements to accusers. Yesterday, current TWC board member Lance Maerov told the NYT that he was aware of Weinstein’s settlements when he negotiated the aforementioned contract, but “he had assumed they were used to cover up consensual affairs.” Once Maerov “receiv[ed] assurances that no company money was used and that no complaints against Mr. Weinstein were pending,” he okayed the contract.
IndieWire spoke with Devin McRae, an entertainment litigator in Los Angeles and partner at Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae LLP (which broke off from Glaser’s firm, Glaser Weil, in 2010). “The provision demonstrates that the company was well aware of his propensities,” he said. “And so much so that it came into the negotiation of the contract, in which it was, ‘You could keep your job if you keep doing this.’”
“I’m sure the company will now say in their dispute with him and to the public that, ‘Well, we didn’t intend that he could violate the law.’” McRae said. “They’ll probably say, ‘That was covering broader conduct that doesn’t violate the law, but would violate our stricter standards in our Code of Conduct.’ I mean that’s about all they could say. It’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. In the end, I think it’s pretty damning.”
On Monday morning, IndieWire received this statement from The Weinstein Company’s Board of Representatives. “The interpretation of the contract is not correct. The contract speaks for itself.”
On October 11, TWC board member Tarak Ben Ammar told a French TV station that the board insisted Weinstein re-sign his Code of Conduct after he allegedly groped model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in his New York office in spring 2015. After Battilana Gutierrez reported Weinstein to police, she wore a wire for her final meeting with Weinstein. The audio from that meeting went viral this week.
In 2015, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. released a statement saying, “This [Battilana Gutierrez] case was taken seriously from the outset, with a thorough investigation conducted by our Sex Crimes Unit. After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported.” However, today, Variety confirmed that a NYPD investigation of Weinstein is now underway.