Boies Schiller hired agency to quash Weinstein story while representing the New York Times
ABA Journal file photo of David Boies by Kathy Anderson
Updated: Boies Schiller Flexner represented the New York Times in legal matters at the same time partner David Boies signed a contract with an investigations firm that sought to stop the newspaper from publishing an article about sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein, according to a published report.
The investigations firm, Black Cube, is largely run by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies, the New Yorker reports. The Black Cube contract states that a primary objective is to aid efforts “to completely stop publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper.” The New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter are among the publications summarizing the New Yorker findings.
One Black Cube investigator met with a journalist while posing as a woman who might have an allegation against Weinstein to try to find out which women were coming forward with information, according to the New Yorker. The same investigator also posed as a women’s rights advocate while befriending actress Rose McGowan, who later went public with a rape allegation against Weinstein. Black Cube later gave Weinstein detailed descriptions of a book McGowan was writing titled Brave.
In a statement, the New York Times said it learned on Monday of Boies Schiller’s secret work to stop its reporting on Weinstein even as the firm represented the newspaper on other matters. On Tuesday evening, the Times said it had ended its relationship with Boies Schiller, Law.com (sub. req.) reports.
“We consider this intolerable conduct, a grave betrayal of trust, and a breach of the basic professional standards that all lawyers are required to observe. It is inexcusable and we will be pursuing appropriate remedies,” the statement said.
Boies told the New Yorker he didn’t think there was a conflict of interest. Boies said he was aware only of investigative work related to McGowan, and he thought it was appropriate to investigate precisely what Weinstein was accused of doing. He also said the firm didn’t select the investigative firm or direct its work, though he now believes Boies Schiller should not have paid investigators without that oversight role.
Boies said he had advised Weinstein from the beginning that the Times story “could not be stopped by threats or influence and that the only way the story could be stopped was by convincing the Times that there was no rape.”
“If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times’ interest,” Boies told the New Yorker.
Boies said in a statement to the law firm’s employees that Weinstein is no longer a client of his or of the firm, Law.com (sub. req.) reports.
Boies said he learned in the first half of the year that the Times was considering publishing a story alleging that Weinstein had raped an actress many years ago, an allegation “hotly disputed” by Weinstein. Boies says he told Weinstein that neither he nor the firm would represent him in that matter, and Weinstein hired several other lawyers to represent him. Weinstein and the other lawyers selected the investigators, and they drafted the contract. Boies says he agreed to execute the contract on Weinstein’s behalf.
Boies also said his engagement letter with the Times made clear the firm could represent clients adverse to the Times on matters unrelated to the work the firm was doing for the newspaper.
“Had I known at the time that this contract would have been used for the services that I now understand it was used for, I would never have signed it or been associated in any way with this effort,” Boies said in the statement. “I have devoted much of my professional career to helping give voice to people who would otherwise not be heard and to protecting the rights of women and others subjection to oppression.
“I would never knowingly participate in an effort to intimidate or silence women or anyone else, including the conduct described in the New Yorker article. That is not who I am.”
In a statement, Black Cube refused to comment on its work for Weinstein, but said it “applies high moral standards to the work” and fully complies with the law.
“Black Cube supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the U.S., gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns,” the statement said.
Updated at 3:15 p.m. to include Boies’ statement to his law firm’s employees. Updated on Nov. 8 to include Times’ firing of Boies Schiller.