Weinstein settlement deal with accusers prompts mixed reactions

By Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

A 25 million US dollar (£18.9 million) settlement to end nearly every sexual misconduct lawsuit brought against Harvey Weinstein and his former film studio’s board has received a mixed reaction.

Louisette Geiss, a plaintiff in a Manhattan federal court class-action lawsuit, said it was “a wake-up call for all companies that they will be held accountable if they protect predators in their midst”.

But it was also criticised by others who called the deal symptomatic of a “broken system that privileges powerful abusers at the expense of survivors”.

Under the settlement, which would require court approval before payouts could occur, Weinstein would avoid paying any of his own money and he would not be required to admit wrongdoing as part of the deal.

Insurance companies representing the Weinstein Company would cover the settlement’s cost, according to the New York Times.

The settlement’s terms remain uncertain. Eighteen of the alleged victims would split 6.2 million dollars (£4.6 million), with no individual receiving more than 500,000 dollars (£378,000).

A separate 18.5 million dollars (£13.9 million) would go towards those involved in a class-action case, the New York attorney general’s suit and any future claimants, the New York Times reported.

Ms Geiss said: “Now that The Weinstein Company is in bankruptcy and Harvey is about to stand to trial, this settlement will ensure that all survivors have the chance for recovery and can move forward without Harvey’s damaging lock on their careers.”

Lawyer Thomas Giuffra said the agreement was the same deal announced several months ago but with more punitive provisions aimed at forcing those who were holding out to accept it.

In a statement that included the names of several other lawyers from his firm, Mr Giuffra said: “The most troubling aspect of this settlement is a punitive provision designed to force victims to settle.

“Shockingly, any funds that would have been allocated to claims from the settlement fund for non-settling claimants would be turned over to Harvey and Robert Weinstein to defend against their claims in court.

“We understand that many victims have been so emotionally devastated and drained by this process that they cannot go on. But this proposed settlement does not allow for a truly voluntary choice.”

Weinstein faces criminal charges in the new year (AP/Mark Lennihan)

Lawyers Douglas H Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer said they reject the notion that it was the best possible settlement, especially because it penalises those who continue their lawsuits.

They also called it “shameful that 12 million dollars of the settlement is going to the lawyers for the directors who we alleged enabled Harvey Weinstein”.

Other lawyers praised the deal, including Steve Berman in Seattle and Elizabeth Fegan in Chicago.

Mr Berman said: “Given the hard legal issues involved this allows for some decent justice for the victims and therefore we are pleased with the settlement.”

Ms Fegan said the settlement helps ensure women will be compensated, particularly since Weinstein is in bankruptcy proceedings and some court rulings have resulted in the dismissal of many claims.

She said: “Our clients have shouldered a heavy burden, fighting a battle on behalf of all survivors to create a victims’ fund that will be available for every woman who was abused by Weinstein to make a confidential claim.

“Harvey Weinstein stripped the survivors of everything — dignity, dreams, careers, and money. There is no amount of money that could restore what he took from the survivors. But a settlement will finally give the survivors a safe and confidential place in which to share their stories and receive the justice that the courts have withheld.”

Harvey Weinstein leaving court following the hearing (AP/Mark Lennihan)

The 25 million dollars is part of a larger pool of 46.7 million dollars (£35.3 million), with the remainder going to the Weinstein companies, general unsecured creditors and lawyers for defendants, Ms Fegan said.

She said at least 29 actresses and former Weinstein employees who had sued the movie mogul for accusations ranging from sexual misconduct to rape had agreed to the deal. She said that number included the New York attorney general’s office, which had also sued.

Rebecca Goldman, chief operating officer of the Time’s Up gender equality initiative, called the deal “more than a maths problem – it’s a symptom of a problematic broken system that privileges powerful abusers at the expense of survivors”.

Weinstein faces a trial on January 6 on rape and sexual assault charges. His bail was increased from a million dollars (£750,000) to 5 million dollars (£3.8 million) for allegedly mishandling his electronic ankle monitor.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.