Weinstein Company leaders may have known about Harvey Weinstein's payoffs since 2015, The New York Times reports.
After the outlet published a damning report that detailed three decades of alleged sexual harassment, Weinstein was quickly fired from his position. On Tuesday, the company's cofounder, Bob Weinstein, and president, David Glasser, told employees they were shocked by both the sexual abuse allegations and the payoffs, according to The New York Times.
Yesterday, the company's board issued the following statement: "The Weinstein Company’s Board of Representatives – Bob Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg and Tarak Ben Ammar – are shocked and dismayed by the recently emerged allegations of extreme sexual misconduct and sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. These alleged actions are antithetical to human decency. These allegations come as an utter surprise to the Board. Any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false."
But interviews and internal records indicate that company leaders may have been aware of Weinstein's payoffs since 2015. According to his former lawyer David Boies, the board was informed in 2015 that Weinstein had made three or four confidential settlements with women.
Lance Maerov, who handled Weinstein's contract negotiations, admitted to knowing about the settlements but said he assumed they were made to cover up consensual affairs. Maerov also said that Ambra Battilana's police report raised concerns among board members and top executives that Weinstein's behaviour could become a liability for the company.
Following the Battilana report, Weinstein reportedly refused to let the board review his personnel file directly. An outside lawyer, H. Rodgin Cohen, sent the board a letter in September 2015 stating that it was legally safe to retain Weinstein as an employee. Cohen's letter didn't describe the contents of Weinstein's file and didn't address whether private settlements had been made with his accusers.
As The New York Times reported last week, Weinstein paid off at least eight women who accused him of sexual misconduct. Maerov said he was prepared to represent Lauren O’Connor, an employee who wrote a letter to executives in 2015 to discuss the workplace's alleged sexual harassment. Weinstein's lawyers told him that she had withdrawn her complaint as part of a settlement and Maerov says he didn't see a need to investigate further.
Maerov also said that he was aware of settlements, but he didn't know the details and assumed they were due to Weinstein's philandering behaviour. However, he did add a new code of conduct at the company that directly addressed sexual harassment. A clause in top executives' contracts stated they would face hefty fines if the company ever had to pay a settlement for their misconduct.
In the week since The New York Times report published, four members have left the company's board. The company is currently discussing changing its name and removing Weinstein from the credits of upcoming projects.