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Allen & Overy dragged into Harvey Weinstein scandal over role negotiating alleged victim’s non-disclosure agreement

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Magic circle giant named in ‘highly uncomfortable’ article

A former assistant to Harvey Weinstein has revealed the “heavy emotional toll” negotiating a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Allen & Overy took on her after she accused the media mogul of sexual harassment.

Zelda Perkins broke the terms of the NDA to tell her story to the Financial Times, which includes allegations the disgraced Hollywood producer would walk around the room naked in her presence.

Following the alleged sexual assault of a fellow staffer at Miramax, both Perkins and her colleague walked out of the production outfit’s Soho office in the late 1990s to go seek legal advice from media specialists Simons Muirhead & Burton.

Miramax instructed lawyers at Allen & Overy to negotiate with Perkins. Eventually, on the advice of her legal team, she accepted £125,000 in damages and signed a complex NDA. Financial settlement aside, it’s the former PA’s account of the 12-hour late night negotiations at Allen & Overy’s London office that will catch lawyers’ eyes.

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“I was made to feel ashamed for disclosing his behaviour and assault, and expected to name those I had spoken to, as if they too were guilty of something,” she told the newspaper. Perkins continued:

“At 24-years-old in a room full of lawyers I felt unsupported by my legal team. Looking back I understand they were following correct practice but at the time I felt totally isolated… I was pretty broken after the negotiation process.

The piece specifically mentions employment lawyer Mark Mansell, who is still a partner at the firm. Allen & Overy declined to comment when contacted by Legal Cheek.

Perkins claims the NDA included her demands Weinstein receive therapy and that a new complaints procedure be rolled out at Miramax. The agreement — which Perkins says she wasn’t even allowed a copy of — saw the appointment of three special “complaint handlers” to investigate future harassment allegations. The report continued:

“Crucially, if a complaint against Mr Weinstein occurred within two years of the contract and it resulted in a settlement of either £35,000 or six months’ salary Miramax agreed to report the matter to Disney — or to dismiss Mr Weinstein.”

Unsurprisingly, Perkins’ story has attracted a lot of attention on social media. Catrin Griffiths, editor of The Lawyer magazine, described the article as “highly uncomfortable” for Allen & Overy.

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23 Comments

arty

If it did happen like she says then her lawyers were sh1t for letting her be put in that situation, who ever heard of exposing your client to this in a negotiation? Why was she at their office for 12 hours? Why was it even at their officiates?

Mike

If you have access, try to read the article on FT, it’s absolutely disgusting how the law facilitates such behaviors. My favorite quote: “…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.”
(https://www.ft.com/content/1dc8a8ae-b7e0-11e7-8c12-5661783e5589?mhq5j=e5)

arty

Disagree Mike, she could have taken it to court and/or gone public about it at the time, She chose a large financial payment, a few weird conditions and to keep quiet. The law was there and she chose to take the money and settle. Her wold fell part because her boss was a slime ball and her employers protected him.

Anonymous

But we all know that her chances of winning in court would likely have been 50/50, if that, and she’d have been counter claimed for defamation and ended up having to pay costs if she lost. It’s not as easy as saying ‘she should have just gone to court’ – it’s an insanely expensive route to take.

Anonymous

So an assistant who left her (likely meagrely paid) job after being harassed should have taken Miramax to court? She’d basically be using the equivalent of a CFA funded lawyer (depending on when in the late 90s this occurred) to run a claim against a multi-million dollar company represented by Allen & Overy.

It is also worth noting that the above would be taking place in an era when the rich were more fervently protected by their peers and when A&O were legitimately the elite of the legal profession. I think most people who found themselves in that position would be seriously considering the money…

Anonymous

She was out of her depth and placed her trust in lawyers. Blame her advisors, not her.

Tatyana

I’m confused, was she angry that the A&O lawyers were doing their job? Oh no, the horror.

Anonymous

Doing their job to protect a sexual predator? Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure that nobody from A&O that has the power to give you a training contract is reading this, so you don’t need to leave such a desperate comment to impress. #MUG

anonymous

errr yes. If you are a lawyer, you defend your client. You fight the case if the allegation is denied or you mitigate/arrange settlement if your client doesn’t want a fight. If you are morally troubled by this then you shouldn’t be in law.

Just Anonymous

Agreed.

I’m not sure what A&O are meant to be feeling “highly uncomfortable” about either.

anonymous

Maybe they didn’t have a snowflake clause in their engagement letters 20 years ago…

Anonymous

Being cunts ? Although I imagine they’re perfectly comfortable about that.

Anonymous

Doing their job by protecting a sexual predator? Don’t worry, I’m sure that nobody that has the power to give you a training contract is reading this, so you don’t need to leave such a desperate comment to impress them.

Anonymous

I am not a lawyer but can you have an NDA in respect of a criminal offence? Just feels wrong.

anonymous

Not really, this wasn’t a criminal case it was an employment case although some of the alleged behaviour may have been criminal. In Corporate Crime we are seeing an increase over here in Deferred Prosecution Agreements, which are the closest thing you’ll see to a NDA in Crime.

Anonymous

My bad, I thought that sexual harassment was a crime (ie criminal offence rather than employment/civil).

anonymous

It can be both but this particular matter was about employment.

Anonymous

You are missing the point. The issue is an ethical one which needs to be debated: can lawyers negotiate a civil settlement with a NDA in respect of behavior which amounts to criminal conduct. If Harvey parades around naked in front of a female employee, and she has clearly not condoned or encouraged him, he commits an a criminal offence of Exposure under s66 of the Sexual Offences Act, 2003. Harvey is alleged to have gone further and committed a sexual assault on another employee. How serious does the offending have to be before it would be unethical, or unlawful, for the lawyers to agree a cash settlement rather than reporting the matters to the police? Just because it happens in an employment context does not mean that it should not be reported. That was the error that Churches made with paedophile Ministers who should have been prosecuted and sent to jail.
Could the Weinstein lawyers agree a financial settlement if it was more serious offending, for example rape? That would be unethical and, in my view, should lead to disciplinary sanctions against the lawyers involved in negotiating a settlement.

Anonymous

It can be really atrocious the lengths that some firms (you know who you are) go to to try to get agreements which are unenforceable and/or contrary to public policy and they rely on the ignorance of the counterparty and/or the counterparty’s own lawyers to procure agreement to them.

Anonymous

Obviously the settlement would be without prejudice to the contention that he denied the allegations? I don’t think any ethical issues arise unless he literally admitted the behaviour (which would be highly unusual). If he did literally admit to his Solicitors that he had engaged in criminal behaviour, then some issues may arise. Personally, I can’t see that being what happened – he will have blandly denied the allegations but instructed his Solicitors to negotiate settlement and NDA notwithstanding to make it go away.

It is an interesting issue as to whether a Solicitor could negotiate an NDA covering as admitted criminal behaviour. My feeling is that they could but that the resultant NDA would probably be invalid (insofar as enforcement by way of a claim for damages is concerned). Certainly they couldn’t continue to act for him and deny his liability (criminal or civil).

I note the points made about “she could have just gone to Court” being somewhat artificial due to her costs risk – such is the nature of all litigation. Seems unavoidable unless some form of specialist costs Regime were instituted.

anonymous

I’m sorry, I think you are missing the point or haven’t consulted the SRA handbook recently (or ever). It is most certainly a breach of confidentiality to report your client to the police in these circumstances.

Anonymous

Any idea how the NDA specifically names Mark Mansell in it? Has he been there that long, or is it just naming a partner in charge of employment?

It was a bit strange for him to be named personally – there is a lot of luck that he is still here after c.20 years.

Deed U No

Deed U No:

DPA’s,and NDA are an abomination !
Let’s get rid of them.

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