A lawyer for one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers on Thursday slammed a proposed $25 million deal to settle sexual-misconduct claims, claiming that he was told that if his client didn’t buy in, her portion of the money would go toward the disgraced movie mogul’s legal fees.
“They’re trying to rubber hose my client,” said Thomas Giuffra, the lawyer for Alexandra Canosa, after a scheduling proceeding in her Manhattan Federal Court civil case.
Canosa, the former Marco Polo producer who is suing Weinstein for alleged sexual assault, has refused to participate in a tentative agreement. The so-called “global” settlement could bring an end to most civil-misconduct claims against him.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, which was first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, the Weinstein Company’s insurers would cover the settlement costs. Weinstein wouldn’t pay a dime to accusers, nor would he admit to wrongdoing. (Weinstein, who is going on trial January 6 in Manhattan criminal court for alleged rape and sexual assault, has maintained his innocence.)
According to the Times, slightly over $6 million would be divided among 18 accusers; none of these women would individually receive more than $500,000. The other $18.5 million of the $25 million pool would be reserved for participants in a class-action suit, potential future accusers, and the New York State Attorney General’s lawsuit against Weinstein and his defunct movie company, the paper said.
When a judge asked about the settlement in this morning’s proceeding, a lawyer for the Weinstein Company said “there is a limited amount of funds left which will be used [for] whatever plaintiffs opt out.”
Giuffra claimed he was told that if Canosa didn’t take this settlement money, it would go toward some of Weinstein’s legal bills. According to reports, there are three or four accusers who aren’t interested in the settlement —meaning Weinstein could get between $1.5 to $2 million in money that was allotted to accusers, Giuffra told reporters. (A source said Weinstein’s criminal-court legal fees are not being paid by any settlement or insurance company.)
“It would be like the United States giving military aid to Iran to attack Israel,” Giuffra said outside court. “They’re saying, ‘Either take the money or we’re going to give the guns to the guy who raped you.’” (Canosa is suing Weinstein for rape and other alleged wrongs.)
Giuffra slammed the state attorney general’s office, saying officials there approved a raw deal.
“The attorney general is basically working for Harvey,” he said. “By approving this, they’re giving him money to fight victims.”
Asked whether the AG’s office gave him an explanation for its purported support of the settlement, Giuffra claims he was told, “This is the best we could do.”
Asked for a response, the AG’s office said in an email to Vulture, “At every turn, Attorney General James has been committed to securing the best outcome for all victims. Our office will fight to ensure that Harvey Weinstein’s victims receive justice.”
A spokeswoman for the office also said that there is no provision that allocates the funds intended for victims to go to Weinstein’s attorneys.
This potential settlement still has to be approved by a judge. Giuffra said that he would oppose its approval. Even if a judge approves the settlement, it doesn’t mean Canosa’s case will end.
The tentative settlement involves a payout from Weinstein’s company, not him individually. Since Canosa is also suing Weinstein personally, that court action against him can continue.
Douglas H. Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer, who represent several Weinstein accusers, have also voiced opposition to the settlement. Similar to Giuffra’s concerns, Wigdor also told the Times that there was a provision in the deal that would allow rejected settlement money to fund Weinstein’s legal fees.
“We reject the notion that this was the best settlement that could have been achieved on behalf of the victims,” Wigdor and Mintzer said in a statement responding to the Times story. “It is shameful that $12 million of the settlement is going to the lawyers for the directors who we alleged enabled Harvey Weinstein, and it is even more outrageous that the proposed settlement will seek to bind non-participating members by providing a release to the insurance companies and the directors of the Weinstein Company itself. While we don’t begrudge victims who want to settle, we plan to vigorously object to any provision that tries to bind victims who want to proceed with holding Harvey Weinstein accountable for his actions, which is exactly what we intend to do.”