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.