Federal investigators in New York have contacted the American Repertory Theater as part of an investigation into a $600,000 donation the disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein arranged to be paid to the theater through a New York-based AIDS charity, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.
The inquiry, first reported by The New York Times, is part of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s investigation into whether fraud occurred when a portion of the proceeds from an auction to support the AIDS charity amfAR were sent to the ART, where Weinstein had produced the Broadway-bound musical “Finding Neverland.”
“We are aware of the investigation,” a spokesperson for ART said in a statement. “We are not the target, but of course we are cooperating fully.”
Gary Lewi, a spokesperson for
amfAR, said the organization had also been contacted by investigators.
“We received a subpoena and we are cooperating,” he said. “I am told through counsel that we are not a target; we are a witness.”
A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment.
Weinstein has come under investigation after explosive articles in the The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted multiple women over many years.
The financial investigation comes after revelations that the ART had agreed to repay Weinstein and other investors in “Finding Neverland” for funds they’d earlier spent developing the musical if he could coordinate third-party donations to the theater.
The $600,000 was allegedly meant to help honor that agreement.
The transaction, which has divided amfAR’s board, has already drawn the scrutiny of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
A spokesperson for Schneiderman told the Globe last month, “Our charities bureau is working with amfAR in connection with a dispute among board members, with the goal of achieving a resolution as expeditiously as possible.”
A spokesperson for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey declined to comment.
Weinstein’s attorney, Jason Lilien, previously told the Globe that his client had done no wrong.
“There was no evidence that Mr. Weinstein engaged in any violation of state or federal charity law or that any charity, bidder, or donor was harmed in connection with the amfAR event,’’ said Lilien.
During the 2015 charity auction in Cannes, France, Weinstein arranged for a large portion of the proceeds from two items to go to the ART — a “Hollywood Experience” that included tickets to Oscar-related parties and a portrait session with acclaimed photographer Mario Testino.
According to an internal report commissioned by amfAR’s board, Weinstein and amfAR board chairman, the fashion designer Kenneth Cole, arranged that the theater would receive $600,000 in proceeds, while amfAR would get $309,669.
The report found that the auction catalog had an insert indicating that some funds for the Testino package would go toward the ART, but that the catalog made no such mention for the “Hollywood Experience.”
The report further described how when amfAR said it wouldn’t be able transfer the money to the ART by a June 1 deadline, Weinstein arranged to “loan” amfAR $600,000 on June 1. The AIDS charity subsequently wired that amount to the ART later that same day. The report stated that
amfAR sent $600,000 “back to Mr. Weinstein” on Sept. 1.
In an internal e-mail from June 2015 obtained by the Globe, amfAR CEO Kevin Frost worried that “[n]othing about this deal feels right to me.”
The report, produced by attorney Thomas Ajamie, indicated that the catalog’s failure to state that some proceeds would benefit the Cambridge-based theater amounted to “fraud on the bidders” and said it appeared “the transaction was designed to accommodate Mr. Weinstein’s interest rather than amfAR’s.”
A subsequent investigation by the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher found the transaction to be lawful.Malcolm Gay can be reached at email@example.com.