The NewYorker has revealed that rather than being contrite or ashamed for his behavior of persistently sexually harassing actresses and models, disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein hired private investigators to unearth the past of many of his victims as well as the journalists who were in the process of exposing the allegations against him.
It is believed that this was for the purpose of blackmailing his numerous victims into silence. This process of suppressing allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women started in the fall of 2016.
According to the story published in the NewYorker He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature.
Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.
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. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed 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.
In some cases, the investigative effort was run through Weinstein’s lawyers, including David Boies, a celebrated attorney who represented Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential-election dispute and argued for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Timesstory about Weinstein’s abuses, while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case.
Boies confirmed that his firm contracted with and paid two of the agencies and that investigators from one of them sent him reports, which were then passed on to Weinstein. He said that he did not select the firms or direct the investigators’ work. He also denied that the work regarding the Times story represented a conflict of interest. Boies said that his firm’s involvement with the investigators was a mistake. “We should not have been contracting with and paying investigators that we did not select and direct,” he told me. “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.”
Techniques like the ones used by the agencies on Weinstein’s behalf are almost always kept secret, and, 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.”
In May, 2017, McGowan received an e-mail from a literary agency introducing her to a woman who identified herself as Diana Filip, the deputy head of sustainable and responsible investments at Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based wealth-management firm. Filip told McGowan that she was launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace, and asked McGowan, a vocal women’s-rights advocate, to speak at a gala kickoff event later that year. Filip offered McGowan a fee of sixty thousand dollars. “I understand that we have a lot in common,” Filip wrote to McGowan before their first meeting, in May, at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Filip had a U.K. cell-phone number, and she spoke with what McGowan took to be a German accent. Over the following months, the two women met at least three more times at hotel bars in Los Angeles and New York and other locations. “I took her to the Venice boardwalk and we had ice cream while we strolled,” McGowan told me, adding that Filip was “very kind.” The two talked at length about issues relating to women’s empowerment. Filip also repeatedly told McGowan that she wanted to make a significant investment in McGowan’s production company.
Filip was persistent. In one e-mail, she suggested meeting in Los Angeles and then, when McGowan said she would be in New York, Filip said she could meet there just as easily. She also began pressing McGowan for information. In a conversation in July, McGowan revealed to Filip that she had spoken to me as part of my reporting on Weinstein. A week later, I received an e-mail from Filip asking for a meeting and suggesting that I join her campaign to endprofessional discrimination against women. “I am very impressed with your work as a male advocate for gender equality, and believe that you would make an invaluable addition to our activities,” she wrote, using her wealth-management firm’s e-mail address. Unsure of who she was, I did not respond.
Filip continued to meet with McGowan. In one meeting in September, Filip was joined by another Black Cube operative, who used the name Paul and claimed to be a colleague at Reuben Capital Partners. The goal, according to two sources with knowledge of the effort, was to pass McGowan to another operative to extract more information. On October 10th, the day The New Yorker published my story about Weinstein, Filip reached out to McGowan in an e-mail. “Hi Love,” she wrote. “How are you feeling? . . . Just wanted to tell you how brave I think you are.” She signed off with an “xx.” Filip e-mailed McGowan as recently as October 23rd.
In fact, “Diana Filip” was an alias for a former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces who originally hailed from Eastern Europe and was working for Black Cube, according to three individuals with knowledge of the situation. When I sent McGowan photos of the Black Cube agent, she recognized her instantly. “Oh my God,” she wrote back. “Reuben Capital. Diana Filip. No fucking way.”
Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York who was pursuing a story on Weinstein, said that the same woman met with him twice last fall. She identified herself only as Anna and suggested that she had an allegation against Weinstein. When I presented Wallace with the same photographs of Black Cube’s undercover operative, Wallace recalled her vividly. “That’s her,” he said. Like McGowan, Wallace said that the woman had what he assumed to be a German accent, as well as a U.K. cell-phone number. Wallace told me that Anna first contacted him on October 28, 2016, when he had been working on the Weinstein story for about a month and a half. Anna declined to disclose who had given her Wallace’s information.
Over the course of the two meetings, Wallace grew increasingly suspicious of her motives. Anna seemed to be pushing him for information, he recalled, “about the status and scope of my inquiry, and about who I might be talking to, without giving me any meaningful help or information.” During their second meeting, Anna requested that they sit close together, leading Wallace to suspect that she might be recording the exchange. When she recounted her experiences with Weinstein, Wallace said, “it seemed like soap-opera acting.” Wallace wasn’t the only journalist the woman contacted. In addition to her e-mails to me, Filip also e-mailed Jodi Kantor, of the Times, according to sources involved in the effort.
The U.K. cell-phone numbers that Filip provided to Wallace and McGowan have been disconnected. Calls to Reuben Capital Partners’ number in London went unanswered. As recently as Friday, the firm had a bare-bones Web site, with stock photos and generic text passages about asset management and an initiative called Women in Focus. The site, which has now been taken down, listed an address near Piccadilly Circus, operated by a company specializing in shared office space. That company said that it had never heard of Reuben Capital Partners. Two sources with knowledge of Weinstein’s work with Black Cube said that the firm creates fictional companies to provide cover for its operatives, and that Filip’s firm was one of them.
Black Cube declined to comment on the specifics of any work it did for Weinstein. The agency said in a statement, “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. Black Cube supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the US, gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns. . . . 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.” The contract with the firm also specified that all of its work would be obtained “by legal means and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
Last fall, Weinstein began mentioning Black Cube by name in conversations with his associates and attorneys.
The agency had made a name for itself digging up information for companies in Israel, Europe, and the U.S. that led to successful legal judgments against business rivals. But the firm has also faced legal questions about its employees’ use of fake identities and other tactics. Last year, two of its investigators were arrested in Romania on hacking charges. In the end, the company reached an agreement with the Romanian authorities, under which the operatives admitted to hacking and were released. Two sources familiar with the agency defended its decision to work for Weinstein, saying that they originally believed that the assignment focussed on his business rivals. But even the earliest lists of names that Weinstein provided to Black Cube included actresses and journalists.
On October 28, 2016, Boies’s law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, wired to Black Cube the first hundred thousand dollars, toward what would ultimately be a six-hundred-thousand-dollar invoice. (The documents do not make clear how much of the invoice was paid.) The law firm and Black Cube signed a contract that month and several others later.
One, dated July 11, 2017, and bearing Boies’s signature, states that the project’s “primary objectives” are to “provide intelligence which will help the Client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book which currently being written and includes harmful negative information on and about the Client,” who is identified as Weinstein in multiple documents. (In one e-mail, a Black Cube executive asks lawyers retained by the agency to refer to Weinstein as “the end client” or “Mr. X,” noting that referring to him by name “will make him extremely angry.”) The article mentioned in the contract was, according to three sources, the story that ultimately ran in the Times on October 5th.
The book was “Brave,” a memoir by McGowan, scheduled for publication by HarperCollins in January. The documents show that, in the end, the agency delivered to Weinstein more than a hundred pages of transcripts and descriptions of the book, based on tens of hours of recorded conversations between McGowan and the female private investigator.