Media Moves and News

Coverage: Moonves to fight for $120 million severance package

January 18, 2019

Posted by Chris Roush

Les Moonves

Les Moonves, the ex-CBS Corp. boss who got bounced last fall amid a slew of sexual misconduct allegations, is fighting the company’s decision to deny him a $120 million severance package.

Alexandra Steigrad of the New York Post had the news:

The disgraced media mogul — moving ahead with plans for a counter-attack that were first reported by The Post last month — will make his case in arbitration, which is allowed under the terms of his exit agreement, according to a Thursday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CBS’ board of directors last month ousted Moonves after it determined Moonves had violated company policies and deliberately tried to thwart a three-month investigation into his conduct while at the company.

A summary of the findings of the investigation, which was leaked to the New York Times, divulged lurid details of Moonves wielding his power in exchange for oral sex with at least four employees, as well as anecdotes that he destroyed evidence of his misdeeds and evaded investigators.

Jayme Derwester of USA Today reported that CBS still believes he’s not entitled to the pay:

In the document, which CBS posted to its corporate website, the company acknowledges that Moonves has that right under the separation agreement he signed in September but it maintains that he was fired for cause and therefore is not entitled to any severance pay.

The filing reads, “As previously reported, on December 17, 2018, CBS Corporation… announced that its Board of Directors had completed its investigation of the Company’s former Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, Leslie Moonves, and had determined that there were grounds to terminate his employment with the Company for cause under the Company’s employment agreement with Mr. Moonves and that Mr. Moonves will not be entitled to receive any severance payment from the Company.”

It added, “On Jan. 16, 2019, Mr. Moonves notified the Company of his election to demand binding arbitration with respect to this matter. The Company does not intend to comment further on this matter during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings.”

Dade Hayes of Deadline Hollywood reported that CBS had conducted a town hall meeting where the pay came up:

As CBS goes about the challenging task of moving past the Moonves era, Wall Street generally has given approving nods to its progress. But the arbitration phase and a looming legal battle will keep the former regime in the headlines for a while longer.

CBS just conducted a two-day virtual town hall whose anodyne tone seems notable given the timing before today’s news. One employee asked about the $120 million denied Moonves and what would happen to those funds. Acting CEO Joe Ianniello said the money would be reinvested into the company.

The decision to deny Moonves severance became all but inevitable as 2018 wound to a close, especially in light of the disclosures from a draft of an internal report obtained by the New York Times. The document revealed that Moonves had destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an effort to protect his reputation and payout. In that preliminary report, investigators said they had substantiated numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and uncovered previously undisclosed allegations of wrongdoing.

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