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Weta Digital appoint Queen's Counsel to undertake review of workplace misconduct allegations

A months-long 1 NEWS investigation has sparked an independent review into Oscar award-winning visual effects company Weta Digital.

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1 NEWS earlier revealed allegations of bullying, harassment and misconduct at the company. Source: 1 NEWS

Last week 1 NEWS revealed allegations of bullying, harassment and misconduct at the company. To date 1 NEWS has been in contact with more than 40 current and former staff who have serious concerns about the company's culture.

An independent review, which will be carried out by an unnamed QC, has been ordered by the owners of the company, including filmmakers Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh.

In an internal email leaked to 1 NEWS, Weta Digital’s Los Angeles-based CEO Prem Akkaraju told staff the allegations of misconduct are “obviously of great concern”.

“There is a clear need to understand the extent and nature of any misconduct within the company; to this end we have appointed a Queen’s Council (sic) QC to undertake an independent review of Weta Digital. Many of you will be expected to participate and I encourage you all to be open and honest in your communication with her.”

Weta Digital acknowledged “historical” behaviour problems at the company after 1 NEWS last week revealed details of porn mailing lists, allegedly hosted on the company intranet for at least 13 years. It’s alleged they were shut down in 2015.

"There was a mailing list at Weta Digi called 'Caveman'. Men were offered a subscription to it. They could read and post porn on it, hosted by the company” one person said.

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It comes after a 1 NEWS investigation into the well-known movie effects company. Source: 1 NEWS

"I remember seeing some of the runners reading it on computers in front of me while I was trying to work. And men bragging to me about the existence of the Caveman list, implying it backed up their rights to be douchebags."

Current and former staff have also detailed incidents of bullying, sexism and harassment at the company.

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More employees came forward today after a 1 NEWS story outlining allegations of sexism, bullying and a long-running porn mailing list. Source: 1 NEWS

One woman told 1 NEWS she was introduced to a senior colleague when she was a junior staffer, who became increasingly flirtatious with her.

"He would send me videos of things from his past... and make comments how I was hot or cute or that he would like me and protect me, and help me get further in my career," she said.

She says she felt too vulnerable to complain about the senior colleague, especially after hearing about the mailing lists.

"You start and you hear that and think this is the kind of place where I work, I have to adapt to that."

Several others 1 NEWS spoke to detailed bullying.

"They take people with stars in their eyes and burn them to husks, and know they can keep doing it because there's a line out the back just begging to get in," one said.

Another detailed a culture of toxic masculinity at the company.

"It is toxic and careless and wasteful and unkind... and it's very hard for people to be happy in those work environments regardless of who they are, but it sure looks like it's been harder on women."

Others have disputed the company’s earlier claims that culture problems at the company are “historical”.

"The company regularly sweeps allegations of harassment by higher management away all the time," a staff member said.

"Several of the upper management need to be let go after multiple misconduct incidents going on, viewed by many, that just have been swept away.”

1 NEWS’ investigation led Workplace Relations Minister Andrew Little to call for an independent investigation into Weta Digital’s culture last week.

He says he welcomes the news a review will be going ahead.

“It’s a positive development that Weta Digital has appointed a QC to undertake a review of their workplace allegations. Every worker deserves to be safe in their workplace,” he says.

A separate investigation is also underway into alleged culture issues at sister company Weta Workshop.

1 NEWS revealed allegations of sexual harassment, bullying, and a "toxic" culture by 11 current and former Weta Workshop staff in June.

Weta Workshop says it’s investigation, which is being carried out by Hive Consulting, is still underway.

Weta Digital and Weta Workshop are separate companies, but are both part of the 'Weta Group' of production studios.

Weta Digital says it will not be making further comment about its review until the inquiry is complete.

Do you have more information about this story? Contact our reporter Kristin Hall at kristin.hall@tvnz.co.nz