She Said
September 10, 2019 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Harvey Weinstein and his predation on young women looking for a break in Hollywood was one of the inciting points for the #MeToo movement, but much of his conduct required keeping his abuses an open secret, using the law and the media to enforce the silence. In a new book, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey discuss the work put into breaking the story, as well as the lengths that his counsel went to protect him from the accusations.

Most damning were the revelations about the strategy that lawyer Lisa Bloom laid out for dealing with the accusations by Rose McGowan, including putting out false articles about McGowan's mental state being unstable. Unsurprisingly, McGowan has responded to this by calling for Bloom's disbarrment.
posted by NoxAeternum (28 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Calls for Bloom's disbarrment should be universal.
posted by Gelatin at 9:22 AM on September 10 [37 favorites]


Just adding that there's also a recently released documentary, Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein [YouTube][Trailer]. I haven't had the opportunity to watch it, but it seems very relevant to this conversation.
posted by Fizz at 9:23 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Lisa Bloom is Gloria Allred’s daughter. The article is interesting for the people who defended Allred in that AskMe from a few days ago.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:34 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I want to scrub my entire top layers of skin off after reading that Lisa Bloom letter. Are we all monstrous and evil inside? It scares me that we can be so casually... brutal. Ugh, I want to go pet my cat now.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:47 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


The Lisa Bloom letter is heinous, and especially galling is point #5, to start a Weinstein Foundation or implement "the Weinstein Standards," which "seek to have one-third of films directed by women, or written by women, or passing the Bechdel test" (emphasis mine).

It's already pretty slimy, and then these low, low standards of representation are insult to injury. Like, this is laughable. 1/3, and they're patting themselves on the back and presuming that Geena Fucking Davis would ever want to "partner" with them.
posted by witchen at 9:57 AM on September 10 [26 favorites]


Lisa Bloom is Gloria Allred’s daughter. The article is interesting for the people who defended Allred in that AskMe from a few days ago.

Why? I don’t see anything implicating Allred in Bloom’s behavior. Bloom does not work for Allred and Allred herself publicly repudiated Bloom’s choice to defend Weinstein.
posted by sallybrown at 10:00 AM on September 10 [38 favorites]


On the one hand I'm super appreciative of these women and their courage in exposing this, at what must remain great personal risk to their careers and just general well being.

On the other hand, it feels like exposing the Weinsteins and Epsteins of the world is just the beginning. These are the titans of their fields who had essentially endless resources to enable their behavior. How many other monsters are there out there, from the titans all the way down to your run-of-the-mill college professors / doctors / lawyers / plant managers / managing directors / ad nauseum? They're out there at all kinds of different levels and associated ability to enable their predation. It's fucking terrifying and as a man, knowing that based on the sheer numbers, I know some of these men and don't know what their up to...that's terrifying to me and I'm not even a victim or potential victim of their abhorrent, self-satisfying abuse of the women in their circles of influence.

I want there to be a global reckoning. I want to know how I can help make that happen. I want my kid to grow up in a world where he knows that this kind of thing isn't OK, and that if he does it, he will be found out, and he will face consequences. I want all boys to grow into men that know that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:02 AM on September 10 [25 favorites]


I've got tickets to a reading/conversation with the two authors and Ashley Judd next month. I am ... looking forwardish to it.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:05 AM on September 10 [9 favorites]


Could that memo be introduced at trial, civil or criminal?
posted by Gelatin at 10:40 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


The Bloom letter is indeed disgusting and appalling. Honest question: Is a letter like this a legitimate way to get disbarred? I don't know the laws and rules. But IS being disgusting like this really a way that someone could be disbarred?
posted by SoberHighland at 10:41 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Given that she's literally advocating for her client to engage in criminal behavior (that being defamation), yes, it's very much grounds for sanction, if not disbarrment.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:44 AM on September 10 [19 favorites]


That letter is textbook sleazy lawyer crap, but as far as I can tell, it's textbook sleazy lawyer crap, carefully worded for the "actual malice" loophole, viz. that she would have had to knowingly say something false. The letter starts right off in the language that would indicate Bloom believes Rose to be unstable, and a pathological liar.

Lawyers let lawyers get away with textbook sleazy lawyer crap all the time. Should Bloom be sued for defamation and lose? Sure. Will she? Probably not. Will she get disbarred? I'd put cash money on a bet that she doesn't.
posted by tclark at 11:15 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Could that memo be introduced at trial, civil or criminal?
If you mean a Weinstein trial, almost certainly not due to attorney-client privilege. It would potentially be admissible in a malpractice case or a bar discipline hearing against Bloom, but both of those seem fairly unlikely to me.
Given that she's literally advocating for her client to engage in criminal behavior (that being defamation), yes, it's very much grounds for sanction, if not disbarrment.
Ironically, I think she is at greater risk for public comments she has made distancing herself from Weinstein that probably represent disclosure of privileged information. My read is that the kinds of smear campaigns she is talking about in the memo are not likely to be punished.
posted by Lame_username at 11:20 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


The letter on its own doesn't look like grounds for disbarment. (I mean, it's sleazy. But it's standard lawyer sleazy: Let's show the world how awesome you are, and find out if she'll shut up if you give her a director job.) However, if putting those ideas into practice involved defamation, the letter is evidence that (1) there was no consideration of Weinstein as actually being innocent, and (2) there was no indication that the accuser and victim was mistaken or wrong.

The letter didn't say, "Let's establish a timeline that proves you didn't do what she said you did." It also, tellingly, didn't say, "let's file a lawsuit for defamation and put a stop to these lies." But knowingly supporting a creep or even a rapist is not grounds for disbarment.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:25 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


It's rather chilling to see the standard playbook in black and white like that, but pretty much every accused person has followed more or less the same script, because it works. Once you know it, you see it over and over.
posted by muddgirl at 11:58 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Nothing is going to happen to Lisa Bloom.

If anything, this is good for her career because her career options just doubled. Either the people who would be in need of her services now have Exhibit A in what she's willing to do for them and she'll get more business from the predators who want to avoid consequences for as long as it takes to hide their assets.

Or if it's more lucrative, she'll do the reinvention thing where she drops out of the spotlight long enough for lefty op-ed writers to forget her name, then come back with a "new" angle on disenfranchised women and a lot of puff pieces written by the same reporters she would have hit up for the Harvey Weinstein Reputation Rehab Tour.

See also the NYT's eagerness to tell us Lizzie Grubman's a nice lady now. The odds are good there's an editor in the style section there who's programmed a Google calendar reminder to check in on Lisa Bloom in 2021 -- either as the "Is there room for Lisa Bloom in the new non-Trump America?" story or "As we go into our second term with the predator-in-chief, Lisa Bloom, another monster's enabler, looks back at regret with her part in in it all." And if the house organ for the 1% doesn't bite, Bloom can always take it to People with her "I was a victim of the patriarchy and now I'm so sorry for how I victimized others!" rehab profile.

Rarely are enablers to wealthy assholes subject to significant consequences in America. Mostly because they're smart enough to know that nothing sells to a nation of temporarily embarrassed millionaires like the promise of a second act.
posted by sobell at 12:08 PM on September 10 [17 favorites]


I don’t see anything implicating Allred in Bloom’s behavior. Bloom does not work for Allred and Allred herself publicly repudiated Bloom’s choice to defend Weinstein.

And yet apparently details from the book do not help her reputation:
Though she doesn’t fare as badly as her daughter Lisa Bloom, Allred comes in for criticism for reaching secret settlements that muzzled accusers, including one with Weinstein. In that case, Allred’s firm took a 40% commission on a $125,000 settlement that was paid out to Ashley Matthau, a backup dancer who alleges Weinstein lured her to a hotel room and masturbated on top of her. Allred was unhelpful to the reporters, and, after the story broke, strenuously resisted efforts in California to reform the use of non-disclosure agreements.
This is also mentioned in Susan Faludi’s NYT review of the book:
And then there was Gloria Allred, the crusading feminist lawyer, whose law firm, in 2004, negotiated a nondisclosure agreement for one of Weinstein’s victims; the firm pocketed 40 percent of the settlement. “While the attorney cultivated a reputation for giving female victims a voice,” Kantor and Twohey write, “some of her work and revenue was in negotiating secret settlements that silenced them and buried allegations of sexual harassment and assault.” Allred went on to do the same with women who had been abused by the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and the Olympics gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. In 2017, after a group of lawyers in California persuaded a state legislator to consider a bill that would ban confidentiality clauses muzzling sexual harassment victims, Allred denounced the move and threatened to go on the attack. The legislator, Connie Leyva, quickly shelved the idea. (A year later, Leyva introduced such a bill and it was signed into law.)
posted by bitteschoen at 12:09 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


Using confidentiality agreements as a legal strategy to secure paid settlements and taking a high share of a client’s profit are both fairly common legal practices, however we’d like to change them—the comment I replied to was implying Allred’s reputation would or should suffer because of Bloom’s misbehavior as detailed in the FPP articles. Which I find pretty sexist, as if Bloom’s shittiness should be pinned on her mother.
posted by sallybrown at 12:16 PM on September 10 [8 favorites]


the comment I replied to was implying Allred’s reputation would or should suffer because of Bloom’s misbehavior as detailed in the FPP article. Which I find pretty sexist, as if Bloom’s shittiness should be pinned on her mother.

Oh of course, absolutely agree there, but just wanted to point out that (according to those who have read it at least) the book itself does in fact take issue specifically with Allred too, both for the settlements and for the fact she was "unhelpful to the reporters", it seems.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:21 PM on September 10


The thing with settlements is that sometimes you're gonna lose anyway, and it's either take the loss and the money, or just take the loss. They have their place.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:36 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


The thing with settlements is that sometimes you're gonna lose anyway, and it's either take the loss and the money, or just take the loss. They have their place.

Right, but people are talking about settlements with confidentiality agreements. This article discusses the law California passed and why it is important:

While it won’t bar people from entering into settlement agreements, it would prohibit a key provision within the settlement often used to silence victims. Though the victim may choose to keep his or her name private, the perpetrator’s name cannot be confidential under the bill. State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, authored Senate Bill 820 in response to the #MeToo movement and growing demand for greater workplace protections.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:13 PM on September 10 [8 favorites]


Lisa Bloom's apology.
posted by Chuffy at 1:30 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Confidentiality agreements aren’t unquestionably evil though, they are just very easy to abuse and arguably a net negative for society because the rules governing them are very difficult to enforce. In theory, they can be a good thing by encouraging settlement and reducing the cost of litigation for plaintiffs Weinstein’s victims who cannot afford to pursue him all the way through a trial, or maybe don’t want to undergo that experience. In reality, though, they set up the kind of cabining of information we saw in the Weinstein case where future victims lack a warning of the behavior. And while there are supposed to be all kinds of rules keeping them from doing things like shielding illegal behavior, we’ve seen that those rules are nearly impossible to police and very costly for victims who want to try to speak out without violating the clause—you want to vet it through a lawyer, you’d likely be sued anyway, or at least threatened with it.

That goes hand in hand with Allred’s other semi-scandalous reported behavior—her fee system. In a lot of high profile cases involving injustice, we see fancy, famous lawyers representing clients pro bono, which they can afford to do because their time and resources can be funded through their other work (like David Boies, whose firm makes a lot of money from hourly fees billed to corporate clients in regular cases or consulting work). Or, instead of an hourly fee, a lawyer and client can arrange for the lawyer to receive a slice of the pie at the end, which might be years down the road. The lawyer gets nothing for 3 years of work but then a potential lump sum at the end. Or sometimes you’ll do a combination where you reduce your fee dramatically and then arrange for a fee share. The higher the risk, the bigger the slice. While it helps clients on the front end, it looks terrible on the back end, like you’re stealing out of the client’s pocket. But at the same time, it enables whole law firms, like Allred’s, to specialize in unlikely cases while paying overhead because they win or settle just enough of their cases to keep consistent funding flowing in.

Both the fee practices and the confidentiality settlements can seem especially exploitative if the client involved is desperate, at the low end of a power imbalance, or not fully cognizant of their rights, which a lot of Allred’s clients are.

But again—this stuff is not comparable to Bloom’s behavior. In fact, I’d guess one of the reasons Allred has a strong stance about only representing victims is because when you deal in settlements and confidentiality agreements you’re going to be looked at askance if you have any sort of prior relationship with the other side or gain anything in the future from them. In addition to being straight up evil, Bloom’s choice was also short-sighted IF she was planning to continue representing victims post-Weinstein.
posted by sallybrown at 1:35 PM on September 10 [8 favorites]


Confidentiality and nondisparagement agreements often serve the interests of both parties in a sexual harassment or other employment case. It generally goes both ways, and both the plaintiff and defendant are bound to silence. This helps the plaintiff get another job, which in the majority of cases I worked on, is one of their primary goals. I think I only had a single client in several years of employment law who objected to the confidentiality and nondisparagement provisions, and he was a true whistleblower. Most plaintiffs are not; they just got caught up in a bad situation and need to be extracted from it. In any event, as attorneys, we never would have pressured our clients to accept a confidentiality or nondisparagement provision if they wanted to go to the press instead. We would have advised them that it would make settlement unlikely at that time, but we never would have pressured them.

It's also important to know that confidentiality agreements can never extend to courts and law enforcement. So the plaintiff can always talk to law enforcement.
posted by schwinggg! at 2:47 PM on September 10 [11 favorites]


I don't think that letter is enough to call for disbarment. Even if questionable, it's pretty standard practice for lawyers in trials of this kind. The worst part about the Harvey Weinstein saga is how the whole thing was pretty much an open secret for something like 20 years. A lot of people to blame...
posted by productiongps at 5:35 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


It's also important to know that confidentiality agreements can never extend to courts and law enforcement. So the plaintiff can always talk to law enforcement.

Doesn't the plaintiff have to return their settle if they go public to the police? Including the percentage the lawyers took?
posted by Mitheral at 7:50 PM on September 10




Doesn't the plaintiff have to return their settle if they go public to the police? Including the percentage the lawyers took?
posted by Mitheral at 7:50 PM on September 10 [+] [!]


When I was drafting settlement agreements, there was always a paragraph stating that the settlement did not preclude the plaintiff from cooperating with law enforcement or judicial process, because the settlement would be illegal if it did not include this clause. So no, you would not have to return the money if you were subsequently a witness in court. Where the settlements did tie hands was voluntarily cooperating and organizing with other victims. But not going to the police or testifying in court. Private agreements cannot stop people from that.
posted by schwinggg! at 7:01 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


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