A Behind-the-Scenes Legal Battle at a Nonprofit Foretold Weinstein Sex Saga

Oct 2017 // American Lawyer

The Harvey Weinstein sex scandal has created roles for dozens of lawyers, although some of them have quickly withdrawn from the spotlight, while others have remained in the background.

Nearly a year before news organizations began reporting about Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior with women, plaintiffs lawyer Thomas Ajamie began to hear about similar claims involving the movie mogul, he told The American Lawyer in an extensive interview. Ajamie heard those allegations in the wake of his investigation about Weinstein’s dealings with The Foundation for AIDS Research, a New York-based nonprofit that uses the acronym amfAR.

Ajamie’s account, which is corroborated in part by emails and a letter sent by another prominent lawyer representing four dissenting board members at amfAR to the New York State Attorney General’s office, reveals how some legal heavy-hitters sought to stop the Houston-based trial lawyer from asking questions about Weinstein.

The amfAR-related battles between Ajamie and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Orin Snyder in New York include an eyebrow-raising cameo by Lisa Bloom, a well-known women’s rights advocate and litigator who recently stepped aside as Weinstein’s so-called feminist adviser.

Bloom, who spoke with The American Lawyer earlier this month, declined to comment for this story. Famous fashion designer Kenneth Cole, chairman of amfAR’s board and the brother-in-law of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, did not return a request for an interview. A spokesman did provide a lengthy statement on Cole’s behalf to The American Lawyer claiming that the clothing kingpin did nothing wrong.

Snyder, who was tapped by amfAR’s board to review Ajamie’s work looking into Weinstein’s ties to the organization, agreed to multiple interviews for this story. Snyder objected to what he views as the conflation of the tabloid-selling Weinstein sex scandal stories with previous concerns that he raised about Ajamie’s own actions after the Texas litigator completed his assignment for the charity’s board.

“[I]t is shameful that a handful of people are seeking to exploit the Harvey Weinstein scandal in an effort to smear amfAR, harming its ability to fulfill its lifesaving mission,” Snyder said in a written statement to The American Lawyer.


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