In the January 25, 2018 edition of The Legal Intelligencer, Edward Kang, Managing Member of KHF, writes on How RICO Plays a Role in the World of Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo.
Who in civil litigation does not love a good RICO claim? Its boundaries are seemingly endless, and in the case of Harvey Weinstein—perhaps one of the most vilified defendants on the planet right now—there is the possibility of catastrophic implications, as if being the face of an entire movement (#MeToo) is not bad enough.
Civil claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. Sections 1961-1968 (RICO Act), are highly desirable for plaintiffs and their attorneys because, if successful, they provide for treble damages, plus attorney fees and costs of litigation. Very few plaintiffs succeed on a RICO claim, however, so the decision to file one should not be made lightly. Many plaintiffs fail during the pleadings stage, and their claims are dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). For defendants, like Weinstein, the possible implications of RICO can be disastrous. This potential implication is why defendants of civil RICO claims are eager to settle if the claim survives a motion to dismiss and shows a strong likelihood of surviving a motion for summary judgment. For example, in 2016, Trump University did just that—it settled a civil RICO suit for $25 million, which paled compared to its potential exposure of $170 million.
The RICO Act was passed in 1970 as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 to combat large organized crime operations led by the American Mafia and their growing infiltration of legitimate businesses and organizations. Although the RICO Act was drafted to bring down gangsters, it is certainly not limited to that purpose and has evolved into a mechanism to confront business fraud and corruption over the last half-century. This is evidenced by the recent high-profile civil RICO lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein.