Speed Reads

Spycraft

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has outed a shadowy corporate spy firm and its Israeli actress agent

Without the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault and harassment scandal, few people would have ever heard of Black Cube, a private investigation firm founded in 2010 that advertises itself as "a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges."

But 10 days ago, The New Yorker reported that Weinstein had hired Black Cube to unearth information about actress Rose McGowan, who was writing a book in which she alleges Weinstein sexually assaulted her, and reporter Ben Wallace. McGowan and Wallace identified the same woman, a Black Cube agent, who had used false identities and pretenses to approach them.

Last week, surveillance video of the agent posted by The Wall Street Journal alerted Canadian hedge fund West Face that Black Cube was trying to get information from its employees through an elaborate ruse centered in London, and then Britain's Daily Mail identified the woman in both operations, plus another involving New York insurance firm AmTrust, as Stella Penn Pechanac, an Israeli former air force lieutenant, music video actress, and Black Cube undercover agent.

Lots of companies and law firms hire investigators to collect information on adversaries or other targets, "but experts in the field say Black Cube's tactics are more aggressive than most," The Wall Street Journal says, and Pechanac's outing in particular offers "a rare view into a dark corner of corporate espionage." Now that her cover is blown, Pechanac's performance had gotten mixed reviews. McGowan was taken in, but in court filings Wednesday, West Face employees pointed to mistakes she made. Wallace had the deepest cut, telling the Journal, "It makes sense she went into private investigating, not acting, because I found her acting skills not stellar."