Eric T. Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York state, has opened a civil rights inquiry of The Weinstein Company in response to numerous complaint of sexual harassment aimed at co-founder Harvey Weinstein.
Schneiderman is investigating whether there was a general atmosphere of gender discrimination or other civil rights violations.
“No New Yorker should be forced to walk into a workplace ruled by sexual intimidation, harassment or fear,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement on Oct. 23. “If sexual harassment or discrimination is pervasive at a company, we want to know.”
The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau has subpoenaed personnel files, hiring, promoting, and firing criteria, and records showing formal or informal complaints about any kind of discrimination or harassment based on gender or age, and how those complaints were resolved.
The office is also seeking documents about prior private out-of-court settlements made with any accusers, according to a person familiar with the details of the case.
Harvey Weinstein faces allegations regarding unwanted sexual activity stretching back several decades. Several well-known actresses have come forward. He has reportedly previously reached settlements with at least eight women who claimed he molested or pressured them or behaved lewdly in their presence, in an attempt to hide his actions.
David Boies, a lawyer representing The Weinstein Company and Weinstein himself, has admitted that the company’s board of directors knew of at least four women who took money to remain silent.
One board member, Lance Maerov, said he knew of only one settlement to silence a woman’s complaints.
Harvey Weinstein is also facing criminal investigations for sexual assault by three police departments, in New York, Los Angeles, and London. Complaints against Mr. Weinstein stretch back more than 30 years.
So far about 30 actresses have accused Weinstein of lewd or inappropriate behavior, sexual assault, and rape. The list includes such well-known actresses as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette, Heather Graham, Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, and Kate Beckinsale.
Some of the victims have said Weinstein tried to hurt their careers when they resisted his advances.
The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein after media broke the story of his sexual assaults and harassments. The majority of the company’s Board of Directors have since resigned.
Weinstein’s brother Bob Weinstein is working to save what is left of the company he co-founded with his brother.
At the same time, company employees are asking Bob Weinstein to release them from their nondisclosure agreements so they can testify about working conditions under Harvey Weinstein.
The Weinstein Company could face heavy fines if the Attorney General’s office determines that the company allowed discrimination or harassment in its offices.
Such legal and financial liability could possibly affect the company’s sale value.