Former CBS Chief Les Moonves Will ‘Not Receive Any’ of $120 Million Severance Payment

“We have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause,” board of directors says

Last Updated: December 17, 2018 @ 5:28 PM

The investigation into former CBS chief Les Moonves has concluded, and the company’s board of directors says he “will not receive any severance payment.”

“We have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause,” the board said in a statement on Monday, citing what they categorized as Moonves’ “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.”

Moonves stood to receive a $120 million golden parachute, pending this investigation. That’s not happening now.

However, in a statement from Andrew Levander, an attorney for Moonves, the former CBS chief is maintaining his innocence.

“The conclusions of the CBS board were foreordained and are without merit,” Levander said. “Consistent with the pattern of leaks that have permeated this ‘process,’ the press was informed of these baseless conclusions before Mr. Moonves, further damaging his name, reputation, career and legacy. Mr. Moonves vehemently denies any non-consensual sexual relations and cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”

Beyond Moonves’ monetary fate, investigators also determined that “harassment and retaliation are not pervasive at CBS,” but that the company’s historical policies didn’t make “preventing harassment and retaliation” a “high institutional priority.”

That’s going to change, the board vowed.

Below is its statement in full.

The Board of Directors of CBS has completed its investigation of former Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS News, and cultural issues at CBS.

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. Mr. Moonves will not receive any severance payment from the Company.

As a result of their work, the investigators also concluded that harassment and retaliation are not pervasive at CBS. However, the investigators learned of past incidents of improper and unprofessional conduct, and concluded that the Company’s historical policies, practices and structures have not reflected a high institutional priority on preventing harassment and retaliation. The investigation determined that the resources devoted to the Company’s Human Resources function, to training and development, and to diversity and inclusion initiatives have been inadequate, given the size and complexity of CBS’ businesses. Employees also cited past incidents in which HR and the Company did not hold high performers accountable for their conduct and protect employees from retaliation.

The Board, which includes six new members, and the Company’s new management have already begun to take robust steps to improve the working environment for all employees. Among other things, the Company appointed a new Chief People Officer, is actively engaged in ways to enhance and reimagine the Human Resources function, and has retained outside expert advisors to develop other initiatives for promoting a workplace culture of dignity, transparency, respect and inclusion. These efforts will continue to be a high priority for the Board and the Company’s management, and we will continue to work together to communicate with our workforce in that regard.

We would like to thank everyone who cooperated with the investigation and applaud CBS’ employees for remaining focused on their jobs during this very difficult time. We look forward to the people of CBS returning their full attention to the outstanding work that they do every single day.

Moonves was accused of sexual misconduct by six women in a New Yorker article written by Ronan Farrow in July. Six more women came forward in September. Moonves resigned as CEO of CBS in September following a two-month investigation but has denied all accusations.

Earlier this month, CBS president and acting CEO Joseph Ianniello told employees that the investigation into the culture at CBS that was sparked by the multiple sexual misconduct accusations made against Moonves was nearing its end, noting it is “frustrating” multiple leaks from the probe have been published in the New York Times.

In one of those stories, a report by lawyers for CBS found that the network would be justified in denying Moonves an otherwise-owed $120 million severance payout because he destroyed evidence and misled investigators looking into accusations of sexual misconduct, according to the Times, which cited a draft of a report prepared for the company’s board.