Allen & Overy has been dragged into the Harvey Weinstein scandal after one of his victims criticised the manner in which it negotiated her non-disclosure agreement while acting for Weinstein's company, Miramax. Meanwhile, ex-Miramax staff told RollOnFriday that they believed the firm "knew exactly" what the serial abuser was up to.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Zelda Perkins, who worked as Weinstein's assistant in London during the 1990s, said the producer repeatedly sexually harassed her. Perkins signed an NDA in 1998 in exchange for a £250,000 payment which she split with a co-complainant. Sources who wished to remain anonymous told RollOnFriday that the other woman, who does not wish to be named, bore the brunt of the mogul's attentions and that the pair decided to instruct solicitors after the second woman endured a "Clintonesque" encounter with Weinstein.
Rather than taking the money and running, the two women instructed their legal team, comprising solicitors from Simons Muirhead & Burton and a barrister now at Doughty Street Chambers, to include several provisions in the NDA to protect the women left behind. They included requirements that Weinstein would seek therapy and an overhaul of Miramax's HR procedures. A source with knowledge of the situation told RollOnFriday that if one of the recently-revealed accusations of assault is accurate, Weinstein probably breached the terms of the NDA within nine months of its execution, 19 years before Perkins did so by going public. The source suggested that when the full NDA emerges, it will show that it is highly likely that Miramax also breached its obligations.
|"No, Mr Weinstein, it's a non-disclosure agreement."|
Perkins told the FT that she was breaking her NDA to provoke "a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under”. Perkins said she was "broken" after several "incredibly distressing" and "intense" negotiation sessions at Allen & Overy's London office. Perkins said her grilling culminated in a 12-hour marathon before a squad of A&O lawyers which finished at 5am. 24 years old at the time, she said, “I was made to feel ashamed for disclosing his behaviour and assault, and expected to name those I had spoken to, as if they too were guilty of something". The Magic Circle firm is understood to have acted for Miramax on several film productions, and if it threw Harvey the NDA as a freebie, it will be ruing the decision.
One provision of the NDA which has raised eyebrows is a requirement that Perkins and her colleague "must not disclose confidential information" in any civil legal process, "or where reasonably practicable in the case of any criminal legal process" without giving "not less than 48 hours prior written notice to [Miramax] through Mark Mansell at Allen & Overy". It is understood to state that "if any such disclosure is made you will use all reasonable endeavours to limit the scope of the disclosure as far as possible".
A former employee of Miramax's London operation speculated that Allen & Overy "must have put together a load of NDAs" given the stories that have not yet emerged about Weinstein's behaviour in the UK. She said, "Certainly my boss cannot speak about anything because of what he signed".
In correspondence with RollOnFriday, one ex-Miramax staffer said, "I would think that any lawyers involved in Miramax business, namely Allen & Overy, knew exactly what was going on given that Harvey's 'antics' were an open secret". Although staff knew he was "trying it on" with the "talent", she said she "had no idea that my fellow workers, basically at assistant level, were being harassed. I didn't realise it was that close to home". However, "people higher up the food chain must have known", and "most certainly his legal team - how could they not?"
Ex-staff also described how in London "the entire culture at Miramax (where I lasted less than a year) was incredibly cutthroat and horrible. Most of the top bosses were bullies and everyone was out for themselves".
Allen & Overy and Simons Muirhead & Burton declined to comment.
No-one criticises the men for continuing to collect the dollar from a slime ball and saying nothing.....
(1) will not have a job or funds to pursue it
(2) will be judged publicly (just as you are) and her clothing and sex life made public, you know, in case "she was asking for it"
(3) would be against an exceedingly wealthy man
(4) probably wouldn't be believed
(5) would be accused of being a gold digger (just as you have)
It is never the victims fault that a perpetrator keeps abusing. Besides, she did try to help by requiring he attend training.
Cowardly is sitting behind a keyboard taking a pop at the victims of this kind of abuse.
Yes, the firm has a duty to its client, and if it's asked to negiate an NDA then fair enough. But clearly this happened again and again. At what point did A&O partners take their responsibilities as officers of the court seriously? When asked for the Nth time to go through the same process, why didn't they inform the board that something criminal was going on and they would no longer accept instructions?
But A&O assisting Miramax to compensate someone for the harm previously done by its employee is not the same as the firm condoning Harvey Weinstein's activities. The damage was already done, it's not as if Miramax asked A&O in advance whether Weinstein should act in a predatory manner and A&O said "yeah, why not, you can always pay people off". And A&O didn't need to report this to Miramax's board (as [email protected]/14:06 suggested) because presumably senior people at Miramax were already involved - no company would pay out £250k without serious HR approval. Those senior HR people definitely have a case to answer as to why they didn't stop Weinstein repeating the abuse, but I can't see that A&O does.
I've come across Mark Mansell too and I agree (again with [email protected]/14:06) that he's a thoroughly decent guy.
I suggest that a term in NDA framed in that manner suggests that if the employee (of relatively limited means) was under cross-examination they may temper their answers for fear of subsequent litigation from the employer if the employer argues that any disclosure to the court was not 'reasonably practical'.
I suggest that in any litigation or prosecution every witness who is questioned (especially if there is any hint of a employee-employer relationship at any time between the witness and one of the parties) they should be asked (1) if there is any NDA in existence (2) if it includes anything resembling those terms. And if there is, an application should be made for it to be disclosed and to be put it before the judge. And the employer's legal representative to be summoned.