(Updated with Weinstein lawyer statement) A new proposal to settle sex crimes claims against Harvey Weinstein should be DOA, lawyers representing several of the now incarcerated producer’s victims say.
“Filed in the middle of the night to avoid attention, the latest Weinstein settlement plan is more offensive than the version that was rejected by Judge Hellerstein,” attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer said this morning (read the plan here). “Under the new plan, which is approximately $10 million less than the plan rejected by Judge Hellerstein, more than half of the settlement funds are paid to Robert Weinstein and the other ultra-wealthy former directors of The Weinstein Company, as well as TWC creditors including huge media companies and famous actors.”
“We continue to be perplexed by the Attorney General of New York’s endorsement of a resolution that is a complete and utter sellout of Harvey Weinstein’s victims,” NYC-based Wigdor and Mintzer add of Empire State AG Letitia James.
Mintzer and Wigdor represent Wedil David, Dominique Huett, Kaja Sokola, Rowena Chiu, Zelda Perkins, and Tarale Wulff in this Weinstein matter. (Read their full statement below.)
Coming about six weeks after federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein decimated a proposed $19 million class action settlement for victims, this latest filing in Deleware bankruptcy court has set aside just over $17 million for Weinstein victims and their respective lawyers.
Wignor and Mintzer aren’t the only victims’ lawyers dismissing the latest attempt at an insurance-backed deal.
“I am baffled why Leticia James, the Attorney General of the State of New York continues to support an agreement that one of the giants of the Federal Bench has rejected as ‘phony,’ ” says Thomas Giuffra, who represents Alexandra Canosa. “Far from supporting the rights of women, Ms. James is putting the support of her office behind the wealthy good old boys network who accepted ‘Harvey being Harvey’ for so long,” Giuffra adds. “This is a complete disgrace in my opinion.”
“Ms. Canosa and I are hopeful that Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath will see through this sham of a settlement with the same speed and passion that Judge Hellerstein did,” the NYC-based Giuffra goes on to say. “It is obvious that the only lawyers who are looking out for the survivors are the lawyers who are actually litigating their cases and trying to hold the responsible parties accountable for their conduct.” (Read Giuffra’s full statement below.)
In mid-July, Wigdor LLP filed a motion for David and Huett in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware pushing for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases to be converted to Chapter 7. Such a move would effectively end settlement discussions and liquidate the Weinstein estate, a step the lawyers say is overdue.
As the did with their July 28 lurch back into the bankruptcy process to play an end-around from Hellerstein, attorneys for the Weinsteins and their former board want to keep things Chapter 11 to nullify most of the remaining lawsuits in one sweep.
“On the effective date, the NYOAG shall release all of the Sexual Misconduct claims brought in a representative capacity and any future Sexual Misconduct Claims against the Released Parties the NYOAG could being in an individual or representative capacity, provided however, the NYOAG may in its discretion elect to continue with its pending action against Harvey Weinstein in a representative capacity on behalf of Holders of Sexual Misconduct Claims who are covered by the NYOAG Lawsuit and do not affirmatively elect to release Harvey Weinstein,”the amended Chapter 11 plan of liquidation outlines in specifics to the Office of the NY AG.
New York State AG James’ office declined comment Tuesday on the new filing or the blowback it has already received. In fact, the depth of the involvement of the AG in this latest settlement proposal may be minor when all is said and done. As it is, James has not said publicly whether or not she supports these settlements efforts.
What is not minor at all in this matter is the role of Harvey Weinstein and today his civil lawyer was very much on the record for this new version of the global settlement.
“While there are those who continue to rail against the settlement, the practical reality is that outside the settlement the plaintiffs face an uncertain financial recovery, with The Weinstein Company bankrupt, and Mr. Weinstein incarcerated and defending legal matters, facing debt and judgments, frozen assets, and a line of creditors looking for compensation,” said Imran Ansari on Monday of the opposition to the new settlement. “Mr. Weinstein’s current and future financial state is far from healthy, not only has his personal liberty been taken from him, but his financial liberty as well,” the Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins PC attorney added. “Those yelling loudly seem to ignore that many parties want this settlement to succeed, importantly, it is not just the Weinstein defendants, but the plaintiffs themselves, who likely recognize that it is the route to a realistic recovery.”
A hearing on the new version of the complaint is scheduled for Wednesday morning in the Diamond State in front of Walrath. Clearly the hope for attorneys for the Weinstein Company’s founders, board and creditors is that she will approve what Hellerstein would not. Then again, in the more than two years that Walrath has been overseeing the dissemination of TWC assets, she hasn’t exactly proven a pushover.
On February 24, after a NYC trial that lasted almost two months, Weinstein was found guilty of two sex crime felony charges. Allegedly suffering from a litany of health issues that saw him in and out of Bellevue Hospital, Weinstein was sentenced to more than two decades in state prison on March 11.
Weinstein has not yet filed an appeal in the New York trial, despite repeated assurances for months from his Manhattan attorneys that one would be coming soon.
Already having seen the COVID-19 pandemic repeatedly delay his extradition to Los Angeles on multiple rape and sex-crime charges, including an April 10-added charge of sexual battery by restraint, the one-time coronavirus-infected Pulp Fiction executive producer is presently out of isolation and serving time at the Wende facility in upstate New York. In a case unrelated to the L.A. D.A. matter, the 68-year-old Weinstein has also been accused of raping a 17-year-old in 1994 in a May 29 jury trial-seeking suit.
Besides the apparent axing of the global settlement, Weinstein also recently failed to get a sex-trafficking class action tossed out, and he is the subject of a more recent lawsuit from a woman who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002. As well as a recently renewed sexual harassment case from Ashley Judd, Weinstein is facing allegations from close to 100 other women who say he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them.
Here is Wigdor and Mintzer’s statement:
Filed in the middle of the night to avoid attention, the latest Weinstein settlement plan is more offensive than the version that was rejected by Judge Hellerstein. Under the new plan, which is approximately $10 million less than the plan rejected by Judge Hellerstein, more than half of the settlement funds are paid to Robert Weinstein and the other ultra-wealthy former directors of The Weinstein Company, as well as TWC creditors including huge media companies and famous actors. Less than half of the settlement funds are designated for sexual assault survivors, and that amount will substantially dwindle to pay the costs of administering the settlement. The awards to survivors, therefore, will likely be miniscule. In addition, the revised plan continues to force survivors to forfeit all claims against TWC, its insurers, Robert Weinstein and the other former representatives who allegedly enabled Harvey Weinstein. Incredibly, the revised plan says absolutely nothing about what criteria will be used to allocate awards to survivors, other than that the lead decision-maker will be the same male mediator who wholeheartedly endorsed and helped broker the plan that Judge Hellerstein rejected as “obnoxious.” We continue to be perplexed by the Attorney General of New York’s endorsement of a resolution that is a complete and utter sellout of Harvey Weinstein’s victims.
Here is Giuffra’s full statement:
I represent Alexandra Canosa. Ms. Canosa was one of the first survivors to speak out against the wholesale abuse of women by Harvey Weinstein with the tacit acquiescence of the mega rich members of the Board of Directors of TWC. Ms. Canosa’s courageous role in unmasking Harvey Weinstein was discussed extensively in Ronan Farrow’s book “To Catch and Kill” and his groundbreaking article in New York Magazine. One of the points that has not been extensively addressed recently is the role of the Board of Directors of TWC in enabling Harvey Weinstein. It has been largely forgotten that the Board entered into a 2015 agreement with the assistance of Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer, David Boies, a lawyer who now claims to be a champion of the victims of Jeffrey Epstein, whereby Harvey Weinstein would be responsible for paying any sexual harassment claims arising out of his conduct. In a particularly odious provision, The Board and TWC would get a bounty 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 such additional instance. A copy of the contract can be found at https://deadline.com/2018/06/harvey-weinstein-salary-perks-code-of-conduct-employment-contract-1202405670/. The relevant provisions start on page 10.
In my years of practice, I have never seen a provision where an employer would receive a reward for the criminal misconduct of an employee. It is obvious based on this unheard of term that the Board, and the hierarchy of TWC was fully aware of Harvey Weinstein’ s reign of terror on women. However, his abuses continued unchecked with the laughing acceptance of his ultra-rich wingmen until a few brave women had the courage to stand up for common decency and say “enough!”
Sadly, the courage of the survivors who brought down this monster were now being railroaded by Hagens Berman and Fegan Scott, class action firms whose only interest from the outset has been to line their own pockets at the expense of the survivors. On July 14, 2020, United State District Judge Alvin Hellerstein soundly rejected and condemned as “obnoxious” a proposed class settlement presented by these firms in the Harvey Weinstein, et al matters.
I learned this morning that a new “settlement plan” was filed in the early hours of the morning in a bid to avoid scrutiny. As shocking as it may be to believe, the new “settlement” is even worse for survivors than the last abomination“ of a settlement. The new plan provides a settlement which is approximately $10 million less than the plan rejected by Judge Hellerstein! Under the new agreement, the rich get richer at the expense of the survivors. Shockingly more than half of the settlement funds are paid to Robert Weinstein and the other ultra-wealthy former directors of The Weinstein Company, as well as TWC creditors. Less than half of the settlement funds are designated for sexual assault survivors, and that amount is designed to be drawn down further due to administration costs and expenses. Ultimately, the survivors will receive paltry amounts for what they went through. The latest agreement is an attempt to even further treat the survivors unfairly for the benefit of the wealthy, the lawyers and the same male mediator who thought the original agreement was a good deal. Such an outcome in this landmark case is not justice.
The settlement amounts have dwindled away to nothing due to the repeated legal missteps of the class action lawyers in failing to protect the interests of the survivors in accordance with good and accepted legal practice while engaging in settlement negotiations. In my opinion, those interests were not protected and these brave women need to know that the trust they have put into their lawyers has been sadly misplaced. Notably, there is a release provision for Mr. Berman and Ms. Fagen contained in the new agreement.
1.44. Exculpated Parties: Each of (i) the Debtors, and any of their respective successors or assigns, and any of their respective Representatives; (ii) the Committee, its members and any of their respective Representatives; (iii) the Released Parties and any of their respective Representatives; and (iv) Class Action Counsel and any of their respective Representatives.
The scope of the release is unclear but they are the only lawyers who represent survivors who are given a release. This begs the obvious question: why do they need to be released from anything?
Finally, I am baffled why Leticia James, the Attorney General of the State of New York continues to support an agreement that one of the giants of the Federal Bench has rejected as “phony.” Far from supporting the rights of women, Ms. James is putting the support of her office behind the wealthy good old boys network who accepted “Harvey being Harvey” for so long. This is a complete disgrace in my opinion.
Ms. Canosa and I are hopeful that Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath will see through this sham of a settlement with the same speed and passion that Judge Hellerstein did. It is obvious that the only lawyers who are looking out for the survivors are the lawyers who are actually litigating their cases and trying to hold the responsible parties accountable for their conduct.
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