Former Harvey Weinstein Assistant Zelda Perkins Says She Was "Defrauded" by Non-Disclosure Agreement
The former Miramax employee, speaking to the U.K. Parliament, described the "morally lacking" negotiation process with Miramax lawyers in 1998, her fear of jail time should she break the strict agreement and how her career in the industy came to an abrupt end.
Zelda Perkins, the former Miramax employee who broke her 20-year silence to reveal how Harvey Weinstein used legal contracts to keep alleged harassment victims quiet, appeared in front of British politicians in Parliament in London on Wednesday to press for changes to legislation around non-disclosure agreements (NDA).
Perkins used an interview with the Financial Times in the fall to break an NDA she had signed with the now-disgraced movie mogul and Miramax in 1998. She alleged that she and a colleague had been victims of harassment by Mr. Weinstein and had negotiated a settlement with him and his lawyers in which he and Miramax gave commitments that he would undergo therapy and that a proper human resources complaints procedure would be created.
Speaking to the British Parliament, she described the "demoralizing" nature of the three days of intense negotiations with Weinstein's lawyers Allen & Overy two decades ago, and the strict constraints that were put on her in an agreement that was “morally lacking on every level.”
As per her NDA, Perkins said that not only could she not speak to friends, colleagues or family about her experiences with Weinstein, but also professionals, including medical practitioners, unless they themselves had signed an NDA. Such restrictions meant that Perkins’ colleague — who she claims Weinstein had attempted to rape — couldn’t see a trauma counselor without them signing an NDA.
“She never discussed it, because she was so afraid,” Perkins said, adding that she herself assumed that breaking the NDA would result in prison time. "I was basically told the best thing was to erase the past four years of my life from memory."
Perkins added that despite allegations of a “criminal act,” she was told any attempt to take the matter to court would result in her being “utterly crushed,” given the “disparity of power between myself and Weinstein and Disney.” Disney owned Miramax at the time.
She looked to add obligations to the NDA that would restrict Weinstein from continuing what she has described as predatory and illegal behavior. These included therapy sessions for the producer and the use of three complaint handlers within Miramax, one of whom had to be an attorney. Were any further damages to be brought against Weinstein over the following two years, she said the agreement stated that Perkins’ case would be “disclosed to Disney or Harvey would be fired.”
However, she said that these obligations weren’t met, and Perkins said she stopped checking after 12 months, having left the industry and the U.K. “Essentially, we were defrauded,” she said.
Perkins, who was in her early 20s at the time of signing the agreement, revealed that she had planned to take her allegations against Weinstein to Disney if the matter didn't go to court.
"I naively believed that they would be horrified that one of their companies had a potential rapist," she said. "They're an openly Christian company. But my naivety was met with hilarity. Because that was never going to be possible, because of the lawyers."
When eventually signing the agreement, the only moment in the process for which Weinstein himself was in the room, Perkins said she and her colleague had a long conversation with their former boss. "He tried to bring us back to the company and apologized, essentially making a full admission," she claimed. "My lawyer noted this, but wasn't allowed to leave the room with that piece of paper, which was destroyed."
In the months following the signing of the NDA (which she claims she wasn't even "allowed to hold"), Perkins said she went for several interviews for jobs within the film industry, but found her relationship with Weinstein derailed any future prospects.
"The film industry is very incestuous, and Harvey was the kingpin of it all. I had been, very visibly, a close colleague of his," she said. "In interviews that I went to, it was suggested that I'd clearly been having an affair with Harvey and asked whether this would be a problem in the future."
She said that, having spent a week fighting Weinstein with her lawyers and trying to stop his behavior toward women, this was the "most insulting thing that could happen" to her at the time. "I didn't want to be in that environment. And obviously, I wasn't offered any jobs I went for."
In the end, Perkins said she left the U.K. for five years. "I don't think my colleague has ever returned," she said.
The chair of the Wednesday meeting, in which Perkins spoke, revealed that Weinstein, Miramax and Disney had all refused to give evidence.