$19 million settlement in Harvey Weinstein lawsuits a 'complete sellout', say lawyers

Josie Ensor
Harvey Weinstein is serving a 23-year prison sentence - JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Lawyers for the sexual assault victims of disgraced film director Harvey Weinstein have described a $19million (£15m) settlement as a “complete sellout”.

The settlement reached on Tuesday, which still needs to be approved by two courts, is the result of a class action civil lawsuit brought against Weinstein, who is currently serving 23 years in prison, and his former film studio The Weinstein Company.

The deal would permit dozens of accusers to claim from $7,500 to $750,000 from the $18.8 million pot. They would also be released from any confidentiality agreements they signed with the Weinstein company, allowing some to tell their stories publicly for the first time.

Douglas Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer, lawyers who represent six of the accusers including his British former assistants Rowena Chiu and Zelda Perkins, criticised the decision as they said it did not require Weinstein to accept responsibility or personally pay out any money.

"The proposed settlement is a complete sellout of the Weinstein survivors and we are surprised that the attorney general could somehow boast about a proposal that fails on so many different levels," they said, adding they would mount a challenge.

Mr Wigdor said it would also prevent survivors who do not want to accept the settlement from pursuing other avenues of compensation and that he would object to the agreement in court.

Commenting on the decision, Letitia James, Attorney General of New York, said: "After all the harassment, threats, and discrimination, these survivors are finally receiving some justice.”

She called it "a win for every woman who has experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or retaliation by her employer."

According to the 2018 lawsuit, the 68-year-old media mogul “created a hostile work environment by repeatedly and persistently sexually harassing female employees, including frequently remarking on female employees’ physical appearance, berating female employees, and requiring female employees to perform work while he was naked or only partially dressed.” 

He subjected female employees to demeaning tasks, like procuring his erectile dysfunction injections and cleaning up after his sexual encounters, the lawsuit alleged.

Weinstein was also accused of forcing many of the women to engage in unwanted sexual conduct under the guise of career advancement. 

In February, Weinstein was convicted in New York City of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act following a criminal trial.

Gerald Maatman, lead counsel for the Weinstein Companies, declined comment on Wednesday.