Les Moonves, the shamed ex-CEO of CBS, will not get his $120 million severance package, CBS announced late Monday, citing his failure to “cooperate fully” with an internal investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
In a statement, the network said the board of directors had completed its investigation of Moonves’ alleged behavior, plus its investigations of CBS News and “cultural issues” at the network.
“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,” the statement said.
There was no immediate statement from Moonves, 69.
The network’s investigative team, headed by members of two New York law firms, also concluded that harassment and retaliation are “not pervasive at CBS,” but that “past incidents” cited by employees showed that some high-level people at the network were not held accountable for their bad conduct.
“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 statement said.
Resources devoted to human resources, training and development, and to diversity and inclusion have been “inadequate” for the size and complexity of CBS, the investigation found.
“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 statement said.
The board of directors, which includes six new members, and the new management have already begun to take “robust steps” to improve the working environment, the statement said.
Among other things, a new “Chief People Office” is is working to enhance and re-imagine human resources functions, and “has retained outside expert advisers to develop other initiatives for promoting a workplace culture of dignity, transparency, respect and inclusion,” the statement said.
The board promised these efforts would continue to be a high priority.
“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,” the statement concluded. “We look forward to the people of CBS returning their full attention to the outstanding work that they do every single day.”
Moonves, once the most powerful media executive in American television, was pushed out of his position in September after a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct and intimidation in a bombshell investigation published by The New Yorker.
His golden parachute looked even more imperiled in late November when The New York Times posted a lengthy story describing how he allegedly forced oral sex on a young actress years ago and then worked with her down-and-out agent to get her roles to keep her quiet after the #MeToo movement exploded.
Under his employment contract, the network would not have to pay him severance if the investigation found evidence that he did not tell the full truth about whether he tried to pay off an accuser with job offers and then tried to hide it.
Maria Puente, USA TODAY
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