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Another Harvey Weinstein controversy has now come to light. This one doesn’t involve sexual allegations, but it does involve the American Repertory Theater.
According to reports in the New York Times and the Huffington Post, $600,000 raised at an auction in Cannes, France, for the AIDS charity amfAR was passed on to the A.R.T. Donors were not given full information about where their contributions would go, according to the reports.
The Times also reported in a Sept. 23 regional edition that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating corporate governance at the charity.
The details are complex. According to the Times report, the A.R.T. had agreed to reimburse Weinstein and other investors for a $1.25 million investment in its production “Finding Neverland, and for a $500,000 charitable contribution — but only if they got other parties to donate those amounts.
Weinstein, who was chairman of the amfAR event, told the Times in September that he had done nothing wrong and that everyone benefited from the arrangement, which raised $309,669 for amfAR. “I honestly thought we were doing something fantastic for both sides," he said. "We get money, they get money, and it’s all our money.”
A spokesman for the theater company said in a statement, “The A.R.T. received $600,000 in 2015 through an amfAR event at which proceeds from some auction items were earmarked for the A.R.T. It is standard practice to not disclose the specific terms of agreements.”
Whether the A.R.T. knew that the money was coming from a charity is not clear at the moment. What is clear from the Times report is that there was concern at amfAR about the transfer of money. According to the Times and the Huffington Post, one lawyer who reviewed the transaction after the board requested an investigation found that some aspects of it were “highly questionable” and that the apparent failure to disclose the sharing fully constituted “a fraud on the bidders.” A second law firm — Gibson, Dunn & Cutcher — contradicted that report, saying the transaction was legitimate, but the Huffington Post report indicates that Weinstein influenced the board’s decision to hire that firm.
The Times reported that amfAR’s chief financial officer said in a June 2015 email, “Nothing about this deal feels right to me, and I believe we have not done due diligence to understand exactly what this money is being directed to or why amfAR is being used to facilitate these transfers.” And in April of this year, said the Times, four members of the amfAR board complained to the New York attorney general that fashion designer Kenneth Cole, the board’s chairman, agreed to the transfer “despite the clear objections of the executive management team.”
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