Hagens Berman and The Armenta Law Firm File New Sexual Harassment Class-Action Lawsuit Against Harvey Weinstein, Miramax, The Weinstein Company and its Board of Directors

12/06/2017

Lawsuit says Weinstein, his companies and board of directors engaged in an illegal organized enterprise to conceal and further Weinstein’s pattern of sexual assault

NEW YORK – Attorneys from Hagens Berman and The Armenta Law Firm are representing a proposed class of hundreds of actresses who suffered sexual assault, false imprisonment, battery, rape and other heinous sexual acts at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, in a class-action lawsuit filed today.

The plaintiffs bringing the case were lured by Miramax or TWC employees and isolated with Weinstein at industry events, hotel rooms, Weinstein’s home, office meetings and/or auditions or to discuss involvement in a project. The lawsuit filed against Weinstein, Miramax, The Weinstein Company Holdings and the members of its Board of Directors states that these entities colluded together to perpetuate and conceal Weinstein’s widespread sexual harassment and assaults.

The lawsuit’s six plaintiffs – Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Zoe Brock, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller and Nannette Klatt – issued a joint statement, which can be read in full here.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 6, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York states that Miramax and The Weinstein Company (which Weinstein co-founded) facilitated Weinstein’s organized pattern of predatory behavior, equating to an enterprise that violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act, the same law brought against members of the Mafia for organized criminal behavior.

The suit’s six plaintiffs serve as a proxy for the proposed class of hundreds of other women in the entertainment industry who suffered false imprisonment, rape and other instances of harassment. Each of the women was separately and systematically lured into isolating and intimidating environments by Weinstein, under false pretenses of industry-related meetings. They were assaulted, imprisoned in hotel rooms, airplanes and his home, and faced career-ending threats if they refused his unwanted advances and requests. In the instance of plaintiff, Sarah Ann Thomas, “Weinstein conducted the interview in his underwear, embraced Thomas in a sexual manner, and did not give her the job when she did not take him up on his sexual propositions.”

“Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others,” the suit states. “Rather, over time, Weinstein enlisted the aid of other firms and individuals to facilitate and conceal his pattern of unwanted sexual conduct. This coalition of firms and individuals became part of the growing ‘Weinstein Sexual Enterprise,’ a RICO enterprise.”

The lawsuit brings various charges against Weinstein, his companies, and members of The Weinstein Company’s Board of Directors for violating the RICO Act, witness tampering, mail and wire fraud, assault, civil battery, negligent supervision and retention, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

If you were in any way involved in discussions of projects with, or auditioned for Harvey Weinstein, met with him at industry events, or your meetings with him were set up by Miramax or The Weinstein Company employees, find out more about the lawsuit. Hagens Berman’s attorneys achieved a nationwide sexual harassment settlement on behalf of 16,000 women and also tried the first ever sexual harassment case in Washington state in 1985.

“These separate entities all worked in unison to make sure Harvey Weinstein’s unforgivable acts were swept under the red carpet,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “This lawsuit seeks to hold Weinstein, his business, his billionaire friends who posed as Directors, and Miramax accountable for their actions with the full extent of the law. We want justice.”

“Our clients have bravely chosen to stand up to this organized pattern of behavior that has tragically damaged the lives and careers of countless individuals,” Berman added. “Hollywood take note: Harvey Weinstein is not the only sexual predator. Our clients are taking a stand to effect industry change.”

The suit seeks retribution for class members’ loss of work opportunities and devastating damage to their careers, the damages for which can be tripled under RICO law. Plaintiffs also seek damages for the significant physical and emotional distress they endured then, and continue to endure now.

The suit highlights that at all times, Weinstein’s victims and those who met to discuss projects or audition for him “operated under duress and the threat of being blacklisted” by Weinstein and major producers at Miramax if they refused, or spoke up.

Weinstein’s Sexual Harassment Enterprise

The lawsuit states that Weinstein and the companies he co-founded and their board of directors worked in unison with many other participants across various industries, and that this enterprise cover-up grew over time as Weinstein’s actions became more widespread and harder to conceal. Other participants named in the lawsuit include corporate risk and intelligence companies, lawyers and law firms that worked actively to keep news of Weinstein’s sexual harassment from being published, as well as other members of the entertainment industry.

“We intend to uncover additional entities that were involved in the continued cover-up of Weinstein’s sexual harassment through the discovery phase of the lawsuit,” Berman said.

The suit highlights reports from The New Yorker detailing “Weinstein’s Army of Spies” that Weinstein engaged to harass, threaten, extort, investigate and mislead his victims and the media to prevent the prosecution, reporting or disclosure of his sexual misconduct. This Army was unleashed just this past summer to pose as a fake journalist and contact Plaintiff Katherine Kendall, causing significant additional distress. These enterprise members also destroyed and concealed records and other evidence, the complaint says.

The suit detail’s Weinstein’s vast power, success and control in the entertainment industry, protected by an enforced code of silence and contracts barring criticism of the Weinstein Company and its leaders.

The power Weinstein wielded and his ability to blacklist actresses were so legendary that it was the rule in the entertainment industry that actresses needed to acquiesce to Weinstein to succeed, the suit states, detailing media accounts of actresses being “iced out” and blacklisted after denying Weinstein’s advances. The complaint states: “This uniform response to those who challenged Weinstein’s behavior… actually and reasonably placed class members under duress and induced them to forebear asserting their legal rights in response to Weinstein’s actions.”

Recent news headlines have brought these heinous acts to the forefront, and many victims have bravely stepped forward to tell their stories. Hagens Berman and The Armenta Law Firm continue the fight, working to help achieve justice for those who have been victim to sexual harassment, and affect systemic change throughout the industry. Tell us about your case.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with 11 offices across the country. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at https://www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

Media Contact
Ashley Klann
ashleyk@hbsslaw.com
206-268-9363


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09/06/18: Feds Exploring RICO Charges

According to recent news, federal prosecutors are investigating whether former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein violated wire fraud or other laws in his systemic silencing of his victims, and creation of an enterprise to sustain and protect his acts of sexual harassment.

“We are hopeful and encouraged to hear news that federal prosecutors examining the evidence against Harvey Weinstein may see the issues the same way we do: that Harvey Weinstein orchestrated an illegal enterprise. We look forward both to their findings and continuing our clients’ class-action lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and his co-conspirators to recover for the significant damage they inflicted.”

— Beth Fegan, partner at Hagens Berman representing the proposed class of survivors in the lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein