Harvey Weinstein Hired Private Investigators, Former Spies to Discredit Accusers, Journalists
Ronan Farrow's latest explosive report for The New Yorker details the intricate, and often shady, network of investigators employed by the former film mogul.
When Ronan Farrow appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Friday night, the investigative journalist promised that a new Harvey Weinstein piece was coming, one that would explore "this machine that was so instrumental in keeping this quiet as long as it was quiet — I think there is much more to be said about just how far that went."
On Monday, The New Yorker, home to Farrow's two other investigations into Weinstein's history of sexual misconduct, published a new explosive investigation on its website titled "Harvey Weinstein's Army of Spies." It's a 5,300-word, intricately woven report with details examining just what Farrow teased — the "machine" of private investigators and attorneys who worked for months to suppress allegations that Weinstein had acted improperly with women.
It is known that Weinstein has for years leaned on an aggressive team of lawyers, confidentiality agreements, financial settlements and bullying tactics in attempts to keep women from coming forward, but what has not been made public until Monday, through this story, is that he also employed two intelligence companies, Kroll and Black Cube, the latter of which promotes itself as "a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units" including former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. According to Farrow's story, Weinstein began engaging the firms in the fall of 2016, showing how long the now-disgraced mogul had been working to silence or scare his accusers and the journalists investigating the long-whispered-about claims.
Farrow writes that he reviewed "dozens of pages of documents" and confirmed with seven people involved in the effort that Weinstein had hired the companies. He also reports that Weinstein, or the firms, employed freelance journalists to conduct "interviews" with various women, including Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra, and report back information that could help Weinstein.
"The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in The New York Times and The New Yorker," Farrow reports. "Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies 'target,' or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating."
Rose McGowan, who has said she was raped by Weinstein in a hotel room during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, figures prominently in Farrow's story, and the actress-turned-activist goes on the record to describe her troubling interactions with operatives from Black Cube who used false identities to secure information from her, including details and/or pages from her forthcoming memoir, titled Brave. Farrow reports that one of those investigators masqueraded as a women's rights advocate and secretly recorded her conversations with McGowan.
Helping with the effort was Weinstein's longtime attorney David Boies, who said mistakes were made in regard to the employment of these outside firms. According to the report, Boies' law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner engaged Black Cube on activities that produced a $600,000 invoice. “We should not have been contracting with and paying investigators that we did not select and direct,” Boies told Farrow. (Also of note: Boies was working with these agencies at the same time his firm was representing The New York Times in a libel suit.) “At the time, it seemed a reasonable accommodation for a client, but it was not thought through, and that was my mistake. It was a mistake at the time.”
The fact that details of Weinstein's behind-the-scenes activities are now coming out is shocking in itself. Such actions, like the engagement of private investigators and the like, are typically kept private, Farrow writes, "because such relationships are often run through law firms, the investigations are theoretically protected by attorney-client privilege, which could prevent them from being disclosed in court. The documents and sources reveal the tools and tactics available to powerful individuals to suppress negative stories and, in some cases, forestall criminal investigations."
In a statement, Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, said, “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”
Much detail is provided about McGowan's interactions with the Black Cube investigator, who initially reached out to McGowan in May via email. The woman claimed to be Diana Filip from a supposed London-based wealth management firm called Reuben Capital Partners. Filip engaged McGowan about a speaking opportunity for an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace. She also pledged to make an investment in McGowan's production company. McGowan engaged with Filip and revealed in July that she had spoken to Farrow for his investigation, leading Filip to contact Farrow directly. (He never replied.)
The woman apparently also met with New York reporter Ben Wallace, who had also been pursuing a story about Weinstein. Farrow writes that Wallace met with Filip twice, but she had presented herself as "Anna," a woman who claimed to have allegations against Weinstein. Wallace relayed to Farrow that the woman contacted him on Oct. 28, 2016, after he had already been working on his story for a month and a half. He grew suspicious, Farrow reports, when the woman failed to offer much information and instead seemed to be prodding him about the scope of his investigation and who he had been speaking with. Further, Farrow reports that Wallace assumed she was trying to record their conversation and he dismissed her Weinstein claims as "soap opera acting."
Farrow reached out to Black Cube for comment and the firm would not engage on specifics. “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work," the company said in a statement. "It should be highlighted that Black Cube applies high moral standards to its work, and operates in full compliance with the law of any jurisdiction in which it operates — strictly following the guidance and legal opinions provided by leading law firms from around the world.”
Hofmeister added that “the assertion that Mr. Weinstein secured any portion of a book ... is false and among the many inaccuracies and wild conspiracy theories promoted in this article," referring to Farrow's piece.
According to the story, Weinstein's agreement (or with his law firm's) with the company included substantial bonuses if Black Cube “provides intelligence which will directly contribute to the efforts to completely stop the Article from being published at all in any shape or form," referencing the exposé published by The New York Times. Additionally, if the company could obtain a second portion of McGowan's book, it would receive $50,000.
In regards to hiring a journalist, Black Cube solicited the help of a freelancer who reached out to multiple people, including McGowan, Sciorra, Wallace and Farrow, all in an attempt to gather more intel. Also implicated is Dylan Howard, chief content officer of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, who had allegedly been working on behalf of Weinstein to gather information to help discredit sources such as McGowan.
Also reported to be under Weinstein's overall employ as part of these investigations was the Los Angeles-based company psops and that company's Jack Palladino and Sara Ness. The two are said to have gathered lengthy reports on potential accusers, including McGowan, as well as reporters working on the story such as Farrow.
Farrow had been working on the Weinstein story for 10 months prior to publishing his first piece in The New Yorker, just days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the dam with allegations against Weinstein in a bombshell report in The New York Times on Oct. 5, detailing his eight settlements with women following allegations of sexual harassment, assault and worse.
Also revelatory in this latest report are details about how Weinstein leaned on two former employees — Denise Doyle Chambers and Pamela Lubell — to help identify (and make lists of) people who might speak out about Weinstein. He then shared those lists with Black Cube, Farrow reports. Doyle Chambers did not participate in the story, but Lubell, a producer who worked for Weinstein during his days running Miramax, said she felt manipulated into helping her former boss under the guise that it was for a book he had planned about the mini-major.
Hofmeister denied the assertion that the lists were about potential accusers. “Any ‘lists’ that were prepared included names of former employees and others who were relevant to the research and preparation of a book about Miramax," she told The New Yorker.
Looking back on it now, it's hard to believe that any list could have been created to contain the sheer number of accusers that have come forward over the past month since news broke of Weinstein's alleged pattern of abuses that stretches back to the 1970s, according to various reports. There have been more than 70 women who have come forward with claims against Weinstein, but still, Sciorra tells Farrow, that his use of firms like Black Cube and others shows the challenges of standing up against him.
“It scared me,” Sciorra said. McGowan added that it was like living in the movie Gaslight. “Everyone lied to me all the time," she said, leaving her to feel like she was living "inside a mirrored fun house.”
Back to that Late Show interview. Now, with his latest story out, Farrow's comments take on a new light, especially his description of Weinstein's “particularly ugly and powerful machine aimed at securing silence," something he has firsthand knowledge of. Farrow also told Colbert: "It is of the utmost importance that any news organization that has damning evidence of ongoing criminal activity needs to run that, needs to investigate it, interrogate it and run it."