Published: Tue, December 18, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

CBS denies former CEO Les Moonves $120 million severance

CBS denies former CEO Les Moonves $120 million severance

CBS Corp said on Monday it has fired Leslie Moonves for cause and has denied a $120 million severance package as it girds for a potential legal battle with its former chief executive who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault that allegedly took place before and after he joined the company.

"We have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause, including his willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company policies and breach of his employment contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the Company's investigation", the board said.

CBS' board of directors hired an independent group of investigators to look into the claims against Moonves and to determine whether they would be forced to pay out a $120 million severance payment per his contract with the company.

In the first of two articles The New Yorker published on Mr Moonves, Ms Douglas said: "What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was sacked for not participating".

But in August, Ronan Farrow published a detailed profile in the New Yorker in which six women accused Moonves of sexual harassment over a 30-year period, from the late 1980s to the late 2000s.

CBS had already deducted $20 million from Moonves severance to donate to organizations dedicated to promoting gender equity in the workplace and fighting sexual harassment.

Leslie "Les" Moonves listens during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., May 4, 2016.

Given past incidents of "improper and unprofessional conduct", however, the board said it is putting more funds toward human resources training and development, as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives.


In a statement to ABC News, Moonves' attorney Andrew J. Levander described the conclusions by CBS as "baseless" and "without merit".

The Hollywood Reporter says Moonves would have only received the payment if the investigation cleared him of egregious behaviour.

Moonves said at the time that the "appalling accusations in this article are untrue". Moonves has maintained that all sexual encounters were consensual.

CBS added: "Employees also cited past incidents in which human resources and the company did not hold high performers accountable for their conduct and protect employees from retaliation".

"A draft of the investigators" report that was leaked earlier in December suggested that Moonves was set to walk away empty-handed. The popular television network has been under scrutiny since allegations of sexual misconduct forced out Jeff Fager, the longtime executive producer of "60 Minutes", and chairman and chief executive of CBS Les Moonves.

CBS faced scrutiny past year after eight women accused longtime television host Charlie Rose of sexual harassment.

In recent months the CBS board and the upper management ranks have been reshaped, in large part by Redstone and interim CEO Joe Ianniello.

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