The Harvey Weinstein scandal keeps getting uglier. And the WPP connection is more than a bit disturbing if recent reports are true that the WPP executive on the Weinstein board, Lance Maerov, negotiated Weinstein’s last employment contract—a contract that enabled Weinstein to engage in sexual misconduct, practically at will, with a few conditions.
According to a report by TMZ on Friday, Maerov was the board executive who negotiated Weinstein’s last employment contract, back in 2015.
The contract contains clauses that essentially let Weinstein get away with unlimited sexual harassment—possibly worse—if any such charges are settled privately and with Weinstein required to personally reimburse the company for any and all related payments.
On top of those payments, Weinstein would also pay additional penalties. The TMZ report purports to quote from the contract directly, noting that for each settlement, “’You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.’”
Wow. Sort of a swear jar for brutish, most-likely illegal and no doubt despicable behavior. But, as long as the company got its money, Weinstein would keep his job. And for a big macher like Weinstein, those sums are chump change.
Now, it should be noted that Harvey’s brother Bob has denied the contract was set up like that. He also said he was shocked and appalled when The New York Times first broke the Weinstein case all over its front pages. Turns out, the board was aware of past settlements by the CEO and aggrieved women that had contact with him.
Maerov has been quoted as saying he believed the contractual language he apparently had a hand in setting up applied only to “consensual” activity that Weinstein opted to settle. Seriously? At this point, I don’t think many people buy that.
WPP has not yet commented on the matter.
WPP, of course, has its own sex harassment lawsuit going on at JWT, where the former CEO is accused of harassing and retaliating against the firm’s Chief Communications Officer. Ex-CEO Gustavo Martinez was gone within a week of that lawsuit’s filing in March 2016. Gone from JWT anyway, but still working in some loosely defined corporate role at the holding company.
Some people say WPP’s investments, like the Weinstein alliance, and numerous other entertainment-related deals, are proving to be a distraction and more hindrance than help — especially given the company’s recent financial performance.
To the extent that WPP executives are helping to enable horrid behavior by Harvey Weinstein, looks like they have a pretty good point. That’s one alliance that ought to be voided ASAP.