Weinstein v Weinstein: Producer sues the studio he founded for e-mails to exonerate himself

Harvey Weinstein said he's in a "unique position to offer insight and further explain and contextualise his e-mails".
Harvey Weinstein said he's in a "unique position to offer insight and further explain and contextualise his e-mails".PHOTO: REUTERS

DELAWARE (Bloomberg) - Harvey Weinstein says he can help the film studio he co-founded clear itself of alleged wrongdoing if he can just get a hold of his own personnel file and e-mails he wrote on the job.

The beleaguered movie producer sued the Weinstein Co on Thursday to force it to turn over records that it refused this month to provide to his lawyers.

Weinstein, 65, was fired from his post as chief executive officer of the Weinstein Co three weeks ago after the New York Times and the New Yorker published accounts in which several women accused him of sexual harassment and rape. He has denied any non-consensual sexual activity.

His lawyers want to review his corporate e-mail account and other records to determine whether there is "any exculpatory information" that would help the company defend against any claims filed against it - and also to investigate whether he was wrongfully terminated or whether company insiders leaked contents of his personnel file.

"Mr Weinstein believes that his e-mail account - which is the primary, if not only, account he used during the term of his employment by the company - will contain information exonerating him, and therefore the company, from claims that may be asserted against him or the company," Weinstein said in the complaint in the Delaware state court.

Weinstein said he is in a "unique position to offer insight and further explain and contextualise his e-mails" and can help the company defend itself in lawsuits and a probe launched by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He noted that his younger brother Robert, the studio's co-founder, is also accused of misconduct.

A producer who worked on the Weinstein Co television drama The Mist accused Robert Weinstein of sexual harassment while she was working on the show, Variety reported this month. Robert Weinstein's lawyer Bert Fields told Variety the producer's claims are "false and misleading" and that he has the "e-mails to prove it". Harvey Weinstein said he wanted the same information as his brother and said his e-mails contained "exonerating or exculpatory information", according to the complaint.

Harvey Weinstein said it is in his interest to help the company as he holds the largest individual stake in the studio along with his brother. His interest will suffer should the company "be forced to pay out unjustified settlements or judgments" or sell itself "for less than it would be worth because of the threat of unsubstantiated or false allegations", according to the complaint.

The Weinstein Co is close to obtaining a crucial loan of about US$35 million (S$47.9 million) from Fortress Investment Group, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The funds could be available as soon as this week, buying time for the New York-based film company to weigh options including a possible sale and avert job cuts, said the source, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

Billionaire Tom Barrack's Colony Capital backed out of plans to help the company this week.

The Weinstein brothers started their namesake company in 2005 after leaving Miramax Films, which they started in 1979 and named after their parents. The company has produced television shows such as Project Runway and movies such as Oscar winner The King's Speech.

Harvey Weinstein also thinks some information in recent press reports came from his personnel file and is seeking to confirm its source to pursue potential claims against the company and its representatives and officers for leaking confidential information, according to the complaint.

Ron Hofmann, a spokesman for Weinstein Co, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit. Fields also did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The case is Harvey Weinstein v. Weinstein Company Holdings, 2017-0765, Delaware Court of Chancery.

 

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