Weinstein reaches tentative US$25m settlement with accusers

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arriving at the New York Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arriving at the New York Supreme Court on Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Harvey Weinstein and the board of his bankrupt film company have reached a tentative US$25-million (S$34-million) settlement with dozens of women who accused him of sexual misconduct.

The proposed deal would not require Weinstein, the movie mogul whose alleged behaviour propelled the #MeToo movement, to admit fault or personally pay the accusers.

If the deal, which was first reported on Wednesday by The New York Times, moves forward, it must be approved by a judge.

The payout for the accusers who choose to participate would come from insurance companies representing the Weinstein Co as part of bankruptcy proceedings, resulting in a US$47-million settlement.

Of this, more than US$12 million would be paid to cover a portion of the legal costs of Weinstein and his associates.

Caitlin Dulany, an actress who alleged that he sexually assaulted and harassed her in the 1990s, said even though the tentative settlement was not "perfect", she hoped it might help set a precedent for victims of sexual assault "going up against predators and the companies they work for".

"It's mixed feelings," Dulany said. "I'm very sad that it's not more for these victims and there are so many, but I'm also really, really happy that it's happening, both for the women and the potential it holds for the future."

It is unclear how many alleged victims would ultimately participate in the settlement. But at least four are not taking part and some may oppose the deal in court.

These include Alexandra Canosa, a television producer who has accused Weinstein of raping, threatening and sexually abusing her several times over the course of five years.

 
 

Her lawyer said there is "nothing fair or just" about the proposed deal.

Weinstein, who faces a criminal trial in New York in January on sex-crime charges, said he is innocent.

Two years ago, an investor group almost bought the assets of the Weinstein Co, then near bankruptcy, in a deal that would have included a victims' compensation fund worth up to US$90 million.

The deal fell through when a civil rights lawsuit was filed by then-New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman against Weinstein, his brother and his company for "vicious and exploitative" treatment of their employees and failing to protect accusers.

The tentative settlement reached on Wednesday is a fraction of what the victims could have received had the 2017 deal gone through.

"There isn't enough money we'd like to see made available to the victims. He truly harmed people and wrecked people's lives through sexual predation," said Ms Debra Katz, who was not involved with the settlement, but represents Mr Irwin Reiter, a long-time Weinstein Co executive. The latter has said he flagged company executives about Weinstein's alleged behaviour.

"That said, the lawyers who have been involved with this have worked very hard for two years to try and get as much money as is available for the victims."

Ms Rebecca Goldman, chief operating officer of the Time's Up Foundation, released a statement that called the tentative settlement "flawed". "This settlement is more than a maths problem," she wrote.

"It's a symptom of a problematic, broken system that privileges powerful abusers at the expense of survivors."

While the settlement would bring one aspect of the ongoing saga to a possible close, Weinstein would still face criminal charges that could result in a sentence of life in prison.

Arrested last year, he is free on US$1-million bail as he awaits trial. He is also required to wear an electronic ankle monitor.

On Wednesday, a judge increased his bail after a two-day hearing, with Weinstein putting up a US$2-million insurance bond, secured by stocks, bonds and cash.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the court Weinstein had dozens of monitoring violations, arising from moments when a device was either out of cell service range or left at home.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2019, with the headline 'Weinstein reaches tentative US$25m settlement with accusers'. Print Edition | Subscribe