Ex-Lions Gate in-house lawyer got $2.5M settlement for alleged harassment by then-general counsel
A former in-house lawyer at Lions Gate Entertainment is talking to the media about allegations of unwanted sexual contact by general counsel Wayne Levin, who resigned last November.
Levin’s departure came nearly a year after the company first reached a $2.5 million agreement to resolve misconduct claims by the former in-house lawyer, Wendy Jaffe, the Wall Street Journal first reported.
Jaffe told Corporate Counsel she is speaking out now—despite a nondisclosure clause—because she wants to help other women. She says Lions Gate violated terms of the initial December 2016 agreement and a renegotiated agreement, freeing her to speak out. Jaffe says she returned the settlement money that was left after paying more than $1 million in taxes and legal fees. The Associated Press also has an article.
Jaffe says she feared reporting the misconduct to human resources because a lawyer there reported to Levin. She also feared that reporting the problem would damage her career.
Jaffe told the Journal that she first reported her allegations to Lions Gate’s chief executive during negotiations over a retracted stock option in 2016. Jaffe reported that Levin had spanked and grabbed her, and wanted to offer her as a sexual gift to friends.
Jaffe told Corporate Counsel about the first instance of sexual misconduct. Levin had asked her to crawl on the floor, take her skirt off and give him a lap dance, Jaffe said.
Jaffe says the harassment started in 2001, and the sexual contact occurred from 2002 to 2003. After Jaffe refused Levin’s overtures, he mistreated her and gave her so much work that she developed health problems, Jaffe said.
“It was never really about sex, it was about controlling someone and asserting power and that continued even when the physical component stopped,” Jaffe told the Journal.
Lions Gate hired O’Melveny & Myers for an investigation, but Jaffe did not cooperate because she did not believe it was independent.
Jaffe says Levin was an adjunct professor at her law school, Southwestern University School of Law, and he hired in 1997 for a law clerk position at a Lions Gate studio while she was a student. She became a junior in-house lawyer after getting her law license and eventually became executive vice president for business and legal affairs, acquisitions and co-productions at Lions Gate.
Jaffe quit in April 2016. Lions Gate said in a regulatory filing that Levin left “for health and personal reasons.”
Levin’s lawyer told the Journal that Levin “will not respond in the press to Ms. Jaffe’s allegations.”
Lions Gate released a statement to the Journal that said: “We take sexual harassment allegations very seriously, investigate them thoroughly and independently and take appropriate remedial action.”