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NY attorney general files civil rights suit against Harvey Weinstein, Weinstein Co.

Oliver Gettell

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein Company and its sibling founders, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, alleging that they committed “egregious violations of New York’s civil rights, human rights, and business laws.”

In a statement announcing the lawsuit Sunday, Schneiderman said the Weinstein Co. “repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination.”

Harvey Weinstein, 65, was one of the most powerful and influential figures in Hollywood before being accused of sexual harassment and assault by dozens of women. He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, as well as claims that he retaliated against women who rebuffed him.

Weinstein was fired as co-chairman of his namesake studio in early October amid mounting allegations, and he resigned from the board shortly after.

Schneiderman said Sunday the lawsuit is the result of a four-month investigation that included “interviews with multiple company employees, executives, and survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct,” as well as “an exhaustive review of company records and emails.”

He added that any sale of the Weinstein Co. “must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched.”

The Weinstein Co. has been in talks to sell itself to a group of investors led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former Obama administration official, but the lawsuit has reportedly put such negotiations on hold.

Weinstein’s attorney, Ben Brafman, responded to the lawsuit in a statement Sunday evening. “We believe that a fair investigation by Mr. Schneiderman will demonstrate that many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are without merit,” the statement said. “While Mr. Weinstein’s behavior was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC.”

Brafman concluded, “If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr. Weinstein will embrace the investigation. If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself.”

The board’s statement added, “With respect to the Company’s ongoing sale process, the Board sought a transaction to preserve jobs and create a victim fund. Any suggestion that the Company or its Board somehow impeded or discouraged the buyer’s access to the New York Attorney General is simply untrue. Indeed, the Company and its Board actively encouraged the buyer to communicate with the Attorney General. The Company looks forward to continuing our discussions with the Attorney General in order to reach our common goal of bringing this situation to an appropriate resolution.”