MEDIA

CBS Denies Les Moonves $120 Million Severance After Sexual Misconduct Claims

The former CBS CEO is accused of trying to cover up sexual misconduct allegations lodged against him.

Former CBS chief executive Les Moonves will lose his $120 million severance package with the company amid reports that he tried to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against him, CBS announced Monday.

“With regard to Mr. Moonves, 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 network said in a statement that did not explicitly mention recent reports of his attempted cover-up. “Mr. Moonves will not receive any severance payment from the Company.”

Moonves was forced to step down in September, two months after a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Initially, he was set to walk away with a whopping $120 million severance package. But a draft report on his departure, obtained by The New York Times and covered by the paper on Dec. 4, revealed that CBS had cause to fire him because he’d destroyed evidence and misled investigators in order to save his severance.

The report, compiled by two law firms, also brought forth previously unreleased allegations of misconduct against him, and stated that Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995.”

The Times story was released about a week before the 59-page report would be presented to CBS’ board.

“Our work is still in progress, and there are bound to be many facts and assessments that evolve and change as the work is completed,” a CBS representative told the Times in a statement earlier this month.

Moonves’ most recent contract laid out grounds for his firing with cause, which included fraud, a felony conviction or failure to comply with company policies or investigations. Sexual misconduct wasn’t included in those stipulations unless it also violated one of them.

But allegations of a cover-up in the report did violate the stipulations, and stories about his alleged misconduct in the Times and The New Yorker were nails in the coffin. In November, the Times released a report detailing Moonves’ attempts to silence an accuser and bury allegations.

“If Bobbie talks, I’m done,” Moonves reportedly texted Hollywood talent manager Marv Dauer, who represents actress and Moonves accuser Bobbie Phillips.

In CBS’ announcement Monday, it admitted that its “historical policies, practices and structures have not reflected a high institutional priority on preventing harassment and retaliation” and that it needs to raise the bar for its human resources department.

The board of directors has appointed a new “chief people officer,” the statement noted, and is working with external advisers to address shortcomings in how it handles harassment. 

Lydia O’Connor contributed reporting. 

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