It turns out Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual assault may not have been supported solely by an endemic, institutionalized power structure based in exploitation and abuse that’s as old as showbiz itself. It may have also been literally written into Weinstein’s contract, according to the latest revelation to this story that shows no signs of abating nor even lessening in degrees of awfulness, several days in. Even more dispiriting, this contractual loophole may now give Weinstein legal recourse to sue the company that ousted him over multiple allegations of rape, potentially allowing him to recoup a tidy little severance that he can then use to reflect penitently on his poor life choices on a nice beach somewhere.
TMZ managed to obtain Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract with The Weinstein Company, which contains suspiciously specific language laying out what would—totally hypothetically—happen if Weinstein “treated someone improperly in violation of the company’s Code of Conduct.” According to the clause, “You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.” These payments along the escalating penalty ladder to hell would then constitute a “cure,” allowing Weinstein to keep his job so long as he kept reimbursing the company for its troubles. Furthermore, his contract stipulates that Weinstein can’t be fired for anything without both mediation and arbitration, neither of which he received.
In other words, everything about this was set up so that Weinstein could just continue to pull the same shit over and over again, protected by his power and wealth. And if it all went south, he would still get every chance to collect.
In other other words, it now makes sense that, among Weinstein’s first responses to these unfolding allegations—along with hiring criminal lawyers and heroic anti-blogging crusader Charles Harder to punish The New York Times—was to bring in Patricia Glaser to potentially go after his brother and the rest of The Weinstein Company board. Any such lawsuit would probably center on this contract and how his former colleagues violated Weinstein’s rights to go on abusing women, so long as he kept writing them checks. It all promises to be one of the most dispiriting quibbles over “well, technically” language ever heard in a courtroom, and everyone who participates in it should feel a deep, eddying abyss opening in their very souls.
In the meantime, everyone at home can get a little taste of that right now by ruminating on the fact that the very existence of this clause means Weinstein’s fellow board members were well aware of his behavior—even writing it into his goddamn contract. This all follows a New York Times report this week that included a statement from board member Lance Maerov—the one who boasted of instituting a new Weinstein Company code of conduct with specific language about sexual harassment, right on the heels of several complaints about Weinstein. In the October 11 NYT article, Maerov said he’d signed off on Weinstein’s new contract while admitting he’d known about those many settlements that had been paid out over the years, saying he “had assumed they were used to cover up consensual affairs.” Maerov added, “I don’t know what else I could have done.”
At the time, quotes such as these seemed like their own desperate cover-up simply for the board’s feigned “utter surprise” at the allegations against Weinstein when it fired him. But the revelation of contract language that blatantly seems to take Weinstein’s history of sexual assault into account is far more damning, suggesting that the board members not only knew about it, but actually, implicitly condoned it in writing. Not only has The Weinstein Company doomed itself to being completely dismantled by its own cowardice, but it also seems to have opened the door to Weinstein suing for his golden parachute. Hooray for Hollywood.