Woman who worked for Miramax in UK tells MPs she left job after Weinstein tried to rape colleague.
Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant has criticised the non-disclosure agreement she had to sign after leaving the film company Miramax as “morally lacking”.
Zelda Perkins told MPs from the women and equalities committee that she left her job after Weinstein “sexually assaulted and attempted to rape a colleague of mine”, but then had to sign a wide-ranging agreement that required that she use her “best endeavours” to limit what she said in any criminal case against Weinstein.
Perkins, who worked for Weinstein’s Miramax Films in the UK in the 1990s, said she was also banned from talking to a doctor about the events unless the doctor also signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
The NDA was negotiated by lawyers from the “magic circle” law firm Allen & Overy.
Maria Miller, the chair of the committee, said there were concerns about Allen & Overy’s behaviour during the negotiation, telling Perkins: “It’s been suggested that they might not have been working within legal constraints, for instance limiting your disclosure might be perverting the course of justice.”
Perkins said Weinstein was allowed to be in the room while his alleged victim signed the NDA. Perkins’s former colleague said Weinstein had sexually assaulted her at the Venice film festival in 1998. Both women left the company soon afterwards.
“We were brought into a room with Mr Weinstein,” Perkins told the committee. “That was the first time my colleague had seen him again. He had a long conversation with us, trying to bring us back to the company, apologising for his behaviour. In fact, it was an admission, which my lawyer noted, but was not allowed to leave the room with that piece of paper.”
Because the attack occurred in Italy, British police had no jurisdiction. Perkins said her own lawyers advised her not to go to court, because it would be her word against his: “I was told that wasn’t even worth considering because of the disparity of power.”
The NDA was reached after several rounds of negotiations, including one session that finished at 5am after 12 hours of debate. Perkins said by the end of the negotiations there was a “siege mentality”. As part of the agreement Weinstein agreed to attend therapy, and Miramax was required to act if there were any further complaints.
Under the terms of the agreement, Perkins said that the two women had to “use our best endeavours to not disclose anything in a criminal case” against Weinstein. Perkins said that she had believed she would go to jail if she breached the terms of the agreement. Perkins was not allowed to keep a copy of the NDA.
Perkins said that her plan was to go to Disney “because I naively believed that Disney as the parent company of Miramax would be horrified” and said that “my naivety was met with hilarity” by her own lawyers.
MPs said there were serious concerns about the reach of some NDAs. Under the terms of her NDA, Perkins said she was banned from discussing anything with “any medical practitioner, any legal representative, the inland revenue, an accountant, a financial adviser” unless they also signed non-disclosure agreements. Perkins said that her former colleague had felt unable to discuss the attempted rape with a trauma counsellor because of the terms of the non-disclosure agreement.
Mark Mansell, a partner from Allen & Overy, told the committee that he regretted that Perkins had found the negotiations difficult, but insisted that there were times when it was appropriate to limit statements made during a criminal inquiry.
Mansell said: “There can be situations where there is the possibility that the information being given goes over and above what strictly needs to be done and it is possible in those circumstances that someone may try to restrict that.”
Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, said: “I was brought up to understand that you should tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” and added that the NDA “seems to fly in the face of telling the whole truth”.
“I don’t think that I am saying that you shouldn’t tell the truth and the whole truth,” said Mansell. “But I think there may be information that someone could voluntarily disclose that they don’t necessarily need to.”
Perkins said she faced whispers and rumours after she left Miramax, but was unable to explain the events because of the NDA. She said her career in film was permanently damaged by her departure from Miramax.
Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.