In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

How Nondisclosure Agreements Make Weinsteins Possible

The 'casting couch' was just part of the furniture in Hollywood long before Harvey Weinstein soiled the industry.

Weinstein's behaviour has been an open secret so long they joked about it at the Oscars years ago: "Congraulations to you five ladies who no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein," Seth MacFarlane said, and everybody laughed.

Of course, it's not funny anymore. Sexual harassment is not funny, and neither is keeping secrets about it.

Dirty Secrets

In a rising generation of strong women, Weinsteins are no longer tolerated. More victims are speaking out, but what took so long?

Employers and their lawyers are partly to blame. Their nondisclosure agreements and other contracts prevent many from telling their stories.

Rose McGowan, who recently said Weinstein raped her, is an example. She signed a $100,000 settlement agreement with him in 1997 after "an episode in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival."

It took 20 years, but now dozens of women are outing Weinstein. It's fair warning to lawyers that nondisclosure agreements cannot hide every dirty secret.

NDAs No More

Some NDAs aren't even legal. You can't pay people to hide crimes and get away with it.

Peter Romer-Friedman, an employment lawyer at Outten and Golden, said those nondisclosure agreements basically try to buy silence.

"It's trying to sanitize," he told Bloomberg. "These agreements are often protecting criminal activity."

Public policy and many laws prohibit confidentiality in various areas. Some laws mandate disclosure of information that cannot be kept confidential.

Related Resources: