New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit on Sunday against former media mogul Harvey Weinstein, his brother Robert Weinstein, and The Weinstein Company for civil rights, human rights and business law violations.
More than 70 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault in incidents that go back decades. The New York Times and The New Yorker published groundbreaking articles in October detailing vivid accounts and allegations from actresses, including Rose McGowan, Daryl Hannah, Mira Sorvino, Ashley Judd and Asia Argento.
The Weinstein Company is headquartered in New York City, and many of Weinstein’s accusers have said the alleged assaults occurred in the city.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit includes Weinstein’s business partner and brother, Robert, as well as The Weinstein Company, claiming each party had widespread knowledge of the persistent misconduct by its co-founder.
“As alleged in our complaint, The Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination,” Schneiderman stated in a press release on Sunday.
The attorney general’s office conducted a months-long investigation against Weinstein and the company, compiling evidence of a culture of harassment and abuse that was “shrouded in secrecy.” Weinstein allegedly kept groups of predominantly female employees to facilitate his exploitation of women, directing them to meet with potential “conquests” to convey promises of employment.
“Female Weinstein employees are essentially used to facilitate his sexual conquests of vulnerable women who hope he will get them work,” one woman said in a complaint to human resources, according to the press release.
Schneiderman’s office also insists that The Weinstein Company has not properly redressed the wrongs. The attorney general’s office press release cited concerns that the imminent sale of The Weinstein Company would leave victims without justice.
″[The New York State Attorney General] also believes that the proposed terms of the sale would allow the perpetrators or enablers of the misconduct to see a windfall, and allow top officials at TWC who share responsibility for the misconduct to serve in executive positions of the new entity – where they would again oversee the adjudication of HR complaints, including those of sexual harassment, intimidation, and assault,” the release stated.
Ben Brafman, Weinstein’s attorney, said in a statement to HuffPost that the Hollywood producer will embrace the office’s investigation if the purpose is truly to “encourage reform throughout the film industry.” Brafman went on to say that if the intent is to scapegoat Weinstein, he will “vigorously defend himself.”
“We believe that a fair investigation by Mr. Schneiderman will demonstrate that many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are without merit,” Brafman said in a statement. “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.”
The lawsuit filing can be read in full on the New York attorney general’s website.
This story has been updated to include Brafman’s comments.