After trying and failing to find a buyer, the Weinstein Company is officially filing for bankruptcy — which is a game changer for Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims.
Founded by Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein in 2005, the company was already in some financial trouble before the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Harvey Weinstein broke last October. Afterward, however, it became a toxic liability unto itself.
While at first it seemed as though the company might find an opportunistic buyer, a February lawsuit from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman complicated matters by alleging that just about the entire company — not just Harvey himself — was complicit in enabling Weinstein’s behavior. “Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched,” Schneiderman wrote in a press release, making a sale that much less likely to happen.
Cut to March 19, when the Weinstein Company finally announced that it would file for bankruptcy after reaching a deal with Lantern Capital Partners, a private equity firm that hopes to acquire the company through the bankruptcy process (though others could, and perhaps will, make a higher bid).
In doing so, the company said in its initial announcement, it will also release victims of and witnesses to Weinstein’s alleged crimes from any nondisclosure agreements they might have signed regarding Weinstein.
“Effective immediately, those ‘agreements’ end,” the company said in a statement, adding with what I can only hope is a heavy dose of irony that “no one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet.”
It’s hard to overstate what releasing people from their nondisclosure agreements could mean going forward — especially with multiple cities opening investigations into Weinstein’s alleged crimes. Under a nondisclosure agreement, a person is legally unable to speak or act upon past actions and crimes, often in perpetuity.
We saw that dynamic play out as the first Weinstein allegations rolled in, and women — from alleged victims to Weinstein Company assistants — hinted that they had long been barred from speaking out against him. Beyond Hollywood, we’re also seeing the ramifications of NDAs unfold in Congress and the White House, as interns and staffers alike are made to sign them. Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels is suing for the right to speak out about Donald Trump in spite of her nondisclosure agreement, keeping a potentially explosive story right on the brink.
Now that the Weinstein Company’s liquidation will free who knows how many people from their NDAs, it’s anyone’s guess as to exactly how much abuse and corruption will be revealed — but it’s only a matter of time before we know for sure.