Allen & Overy drawn into Weinstein scandal with role for Miramax on non-disclosure agreement

Allen & Overy (A&O) has been drawn into the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, after details emerged of the firm’s historic role advising Miramax in relation to claims made against Weinstein 19 years ago.

The magic circle firm was drafted in to advise Miramax when the producer’s then assistant Zelda Perkins accused him of sexual harassment in 1998.

A&O’s role was revealed in a Financial Times article published yesterday, which states that Perkins’ lawyers Simons Muirhead & Burton advised her, and a colleague accusing Weinstein of sexual assault, to seek a damages agreement against Weinstein.

In the FT article, Perkins recounts visiting A&O’s City office to discuss a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that the firm drew up as part of the settlement, including a £250,000 payout to be split between the two women.

Allen & Overy declined to confirm details of its role, however the FT article names London employment partner Mark Mansell as playing a key role in the negotiations.

Perkins’ decision to breach the terms of the NDA follows weeks of revelations against the disgraced Hollywood mogul, following an investigation by the New York Times.

According to sources, A&O’s role for Miramax was a one-off, with the FT report stating that among other clauses in the NDA Perkins was required to contact Mansell if she was ever required to give evidence in “any criminal legal process” involving Weinstein or Miramax.

However, the FT article states she decided to breach the terms of the agreement in order to raise awareness of the NDA process.

Perkins is quoted in the article explaining her decision by saying: “I want to publicly break my non-disclosure agreement. Unless somebody does this there won’t be a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under. My entire world fell in because I thought the law was there to protect those who abided by it. I discovered that it had nothing to do with right and wrong and everything to do with money and power.”

So far, about 50 women have accused Weinstein of a range of offences, including harassment and rape.

A recent Legal Week survey into sexual harassment at law firms found two thirds of female lawyers have experienced some form of sexual harassment while working in a law firm.

A&O declined to comment. Simons Muirhead & Burton was contacted for comment.

 

  • If you have a story you are willing to share (in confidence) about sexual harassment you’ve experienced in a law firm please get in touch by emailing Georgina Stanley at gstanley@alm.com