the law

Five Weinstein Accusers Explain Their Complicated Feelings About the $25 Million Settlement

Left to right: Larissa Gomes, Caitlin Dulany, Ally Canosa Photo: Vulture and Getty Images

Last week, the New York Times revealed that Harvey Weinstein, more than 30 women who had accused him of sexual assault, and his now defunct film studio, the Weinstein Company, had agreed to a $25 million tentative settlement that would end many of the sexual-misconduct lawsuits against him. Of this sum, $6.2 million would go to 18 accusers who filed cases in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; the rest would be for class-action participants and accusers who have yet to come forward. It’s part of a $47 million deal aimed at paying the Weinstein Company’s debts.

Some participants in this civil settlement told the Times that they were disappointed with the agreement but that it was the best possible outcome. Because the Weinstein Company declared bankruptcy, they felt this deal was their best opportunity to recover something, but some parts of the potential settlement have prompted controversy and criticism. Under the settlement, Weinstein would not have to admit wrongdoing or pay anything himself. The bill would be covered by his insurers.

Attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer, who represent several Weinstein accusers, commented in a statement to the media, “We reject the notion that this was the best settlement that could have been achieved on behalf of the victims.”

Caitlin Dulany and Larissa Gomes, two Weinstein accusers who are part of the civil litigation that led to the settlement, spoke with Vulture about the controversial deal. Weinstein accuser Louisette Geiss, who is also part of this court action, issued a statement, while Alexandra Canosa, who is suing Weinstein separately from the civil litigation with her own suit, spoke with Vulture about why she is rejecting the deal. Kaja Sokola, who had originally been part of the group civil litigation, also issued a statement about why she won’t participate in the settlement. You can read their comments below.

Caitlin Dulany

The Saving Grace actress’s sister urged her to speak out about her alleged 1996 assault following the New York Times’ exposé on Weinstein. After communicating with other accusers, Dulany became a leading plaintiff in the group civil lawsuit against Weinstein and his former company.  

When I first got involved, it was two years ago. I never thought it would take this long, and to me, the settlement, while not perfect, brings some closure and relief and recompense for a lot of women. But it’s been two long years of, first, presenting this battle in court and then trying to negotiate a just settlement. The original plan was to go before a jury in this case. [Then] there were two things that happened. We really didn’t anticipate it, even though our case is sort of at the vanguard of the law. The courts dismissed all of our claims that were older than 10 years. This was devastating. We no longer could pursue our case in court at that point. The other part of this that was tough was the bankruptcy. In terms of Harvey, we shut down his company. He lost his business and will potentially be going to jail. His whole world has unraveled as a result of what we all have done — the women in this class action, all the women who have filed suits, and all the women who have spoken out — we did that. But the bad news about that is he has very [few] assets left, and he may declare bankruptcy. And the Weinstein Company going into bankruptcy created a situation where we as victims were lumped in with unsecured creditors.

What we were able to do was negotiate with the “unsecured creditors committee” — and, by the way, Louisette Geiss, whose name is on this case as one of the lead plaintiffs, was the chair of the unsecured creditors committee — and worked very hard with the other people representing unsecured creditors to create a victims’ fund out of this insurance money. The bankruptcy just threw such a wrench into this whole thing. The ups and downs of this have led to where we are now. [It] is not what it could have been, and that’s very, very difficult for those of us who have been part of the negotiation process.

It’s important for everyone to know that we did everything we could to make this the best possible outcome and it’s still disappointing, and, for me, that I will be very active in this type of justice in the future for other victims. This has got to be better. It has got to be better than this. We have to be more protective within the court system, in the civil court system. It was really difficult that it was such a small amount. I had to really have a lot of patience and think about it and understand that there was nothing else that we could do. Our goal in bringing this has always been to create a victims’ fund for all survivors — there’s just so many women, to this day, who still don’t have a voice, who are scared to come forward. It was really important to me personally to really come together with other plaintiffs and protect all of the women who were hurt.

Larissa Gomes

The Canadian actress reached out to the Los Angeles Times in October 2017 about an alleged 2000 incident during a meeting in Weinstein’s hotel room. Gomes, who was working as an actor and ensemble dancer on the Toronto set of the Miramax-backed Get Over It, alleged that Weinstein had demanded to see her breasts and kept trying to massage her neck during a meeting in his hotel room. When Gomes got to the door, Weinstein grabbed her and tried to kiss her before she escaped, court papers claim. 

I am one of the class representatives in the settlement, and I have been pretty much since the beginning. We chose to take more of a frontline role in order to represent all of the women that don’t feel comfortable to come forward yet. We were trying to set up a victims’ fund for all the survivors. I think it’s disappointing because the amount is certainly not what it could have been, but there were so many factors [like bankruptcy] that came into play throughout the history of these negotiations in terms of agreeing to a settlement amount. The only thing to recover in this situation are the insurance policies. So that is kind of, I believe, the reason it is at the amount that it is. There’s nothing to claim post-bankruptcy.

In terms of people saying they felt pushed to settle, they don’t have to do anything, but the bankruptcy has to come to a close. That’s the law, it’s not about class lawyers pushing. I don’t see it as the end of the fight, but like one win in the beginning of a very long fight. I think the laws need to change, and that seems to me the more likely path. I know, for myself, the reasons why I wanted to push so hard to have a fund for victims that would be fair and allow all victims to recover. Essentially, what it says, regardless of the amount, [is] that we are holding these companies accountable. Creating a settlement fund and a settlement happening should be something to celebrate, in my eyes, because we created a fund — the first ever to recover something, but also it holds these companies accountable.

Louisette Geiss

The former actress made her allegation against Weinstein at a press conference in October 2017. Geiss has alleged that during a meeting in 2008, Weinstein excused himself to go to the restroom — only to come out “in an open bathrobe, naked underneath.” She said Weinstein ultimately insisted that she watch him masturbate. When Geiss, who said no, went to the door, he “grabbed both of her arms forcefully and kissed her” before she fled, court papers claimed. 

While this has been a painful and emotional process, our goal has always been to help my fellow women and create a victims’ fund for all survivors. Outcomes like this, where the women are paid before creditors in a bankruptcy, are as unlikely as they are rare. Though it is tragic that we have to go through this process at all, I am glad to see an outcome where, if they choose to, women like myself can receive some of what is deserved. I want to be clear that our fight is not over. The settlement does not absolve Harvey criminally, and we will continue to demand that true justice is delivered until we see him behind bars. I’m grateful to the many women who continue to fight under a broken system in a process that is stacked against us. From statutes of limitations to dismissals in court, too many of us have already faced unacceptable hurdles toward what is fair and right.

Kaja Sokola

The former model alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted her at age 16, shortly after she arrived in the U.S. to pursue her career. She was initially part of the group federal lawsuit and identified as “Jane Doe,” but on Thursday, she refiled in New York State court under the state’s new Child Victims Act which gives those alleging childhood sexual abuse more time to take legal action against alleged abusers.

When I was 16 years old, I came to New York from Poland to work as a model and to try to become an actor, which had been my childhood dream. Not long after I arrived in New York, I was sexually abused by Harvey Weinstein. I have been living with the trauma of that day ever since.

I originally filed my case under a pseudonym as part of a class action against Harvey Weinstein, his companies, and his associates. But I cannot accept the proposed “global settlement” as fair or just. There is no accountability for the perpetrators, insufficient compensation for all of the victims, and millions of dollars going to people that I believe enabled Weinstein.

Therefore, today I am filing my own case in my own name, under New York’s Child Victims Act, against Harvey Weinstein and some of his enablers, including Robert Weinstein, Miramax, and Disney, each of whom could have — and should have — stopped Harvey Weinstein before he made me another of his victims.

I know that this lawsuit cannot erase the pain I have been living with for 17 years. But I do hope to achieve at least some measure of justice that has still been denied to Harvey Weinstein’s many victims.

Alexandra Canosa

The former Marco Polo producer sued Weinstein in December 2017, alleging later in court papers that he had “sexually assaulted, raped, forced plaintiff into sex acts, verbally abused and threatened plaintiff numerous times.” In late August 2017 — less than two months before the explosive New York Times investigation — Weinstein allegedly “verbally threatened” Canosa not to tell anyone.

The settlement was unveiled to us to some degree over the summer and made very little traction. It wasn’t really discussed much. And so we’ve been sitting with this awhile and really trying to understand it and, frankly, hoping against hope that it would change. I couldn’t believe where we were with the settlement and that this would be acceptable. I think the settlement overall just feels like an extension of his abuse, just like with more of an official stamp. I personally feel really bullied into a settlement. I feel like I’m bullied into a settlement, and if I don’t take it, I’ve been told specifically that the money left on the table by me, rather than being redistributed to other victims, would actually go into his pot to use to fund his defense against me — which on its own feels spiteful, frankly. It’s like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. If I join, I have to concede; I have to acknowledge that I will never get an admission of guilt from him. There will be no culpability.

It’s an impossible position to put any woman who’s in this situation. I think [for] a lot of the women who are part of the settlement, this is their only avenue to seek justice, because they cant be part of a criminal trial. I think a lot of women feel like, after years and years of threats and struggle, that this is a way to find closure, and I’m completely sympathetic to that. The settlement isn’t signed off on yet, it’s still something I have to consider, but I feel like that is what they’re counting on — all the women feeling like they have no option, and therefore we will just sign off, and the guilt that we might feel for our fellow victims will push us to sign off.

For me, I feel like there has to be a better settlement, there has to be a better way, for all the victims, not just me. I wouldn’t have gone through the past two and a half years of crap, frankly, for nothing, and I have to stand up for what I think is right and I don’t think the settlement is right. But, I guess, I really hope the settlement is reassessed in the cold light of day. I hope the settlement is reassessed in the current climate we’re in — that has a different understanding of these settlements and, frankly, the effect of these settlements on victims of sexual assault.

This settlement relates only to civil litigation, which means it does not affect Weinstein’s upcoming criminal case. He still faces a rape and sexual-assault trial on January 6 in a Manhattan court, involving Mimi Haleyi and a still-unnamed woman. Prosecutors are poised to use Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra’s testimony that Weinstein had raped her around late 1993 to support the two predatory-sexual-assault counts — which could result in a life sentence if he’s convicted on them. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty.

5 Weinstein Accusers on Controversial $25 Million Settlement