Have you ever wondered how powerful people use their money to protect themselves from harmful accusations that might appear in the media? If so, you’ll want to check out Ronan Farrow’s follow-up story on Harvey Weinstein at the New Yorker. Farrow goes into great detail about how Weinstein used spies (not an exaggeration) to gather information on Rose McGowan and others and also to assess where various reporters were in the process of putting together a story that could damage him.
Last October, the mogul’s attorney, David Boies, hired a company called Black Cube to try to block publication of a major story about his sexual behavior. Black Cube was also tasked with finding out more about an unpublished memoir by actress Rose McGowan, who has since accused Weinstein of rape.
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.
Having signed the contract, Black Cube then contacted McGowan through one of its operatives who using an assumed name and identity. This individual expressed sympathy for McGowan and met with her several times in person, all the while recording those meetings to gather information for Weinstein:
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 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.”
Black Cube was never able to secure a copy of McGowan’s unpublished memoir but it did create transcripts from recordings of all of “Diana’s” meetings with her.
The same undercover operative also contacted Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York magazine, who was then working on a story about Weinstein. When she contacted Wallace, the Black Cube spy assumed a different identity, claiming her name was Anna and that she had been victimized by Weinstein. Wallace became suspicious when “Anna” relayed her personal allegation involving Weinstein. “It seemed like soap-opera acting,” he told Farrow. He also wondered if the discussion was being recorded after Anna asked that they sit next to each other. Ironically, given the subject matter, bad acting betrayed her attempt to gather information.
Black Cube was just one of several investigative outfits hired by Weinstein (always through his lawyers) to gather information for him. It’s worth 20-minutes to read the entire piece just to see how far the truly powerful will go to protect themselves.