Former CBS CEO Les Moonves won't get $120M severance after network investigation

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  • Les Moonves
    Les Moonves
    American television executive

Former CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves won’t be receiving any severance from the network, following an internal investigation.

The CBS board of directors said in a statement Monday that Moonves has failed to cooperate fully in the investigation and violated company policies, among other things that gave the board grounds to terminate him without the $120 million payment.

Moonves’s lawyer, Andrew Levander, gave the following statement to Variety:

“The conclusions of the CBS board were foreordained and are without merit. 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.”

Les Moonves in Cannes, France, in June 2016, when he was CBS president (Photo: Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images)
Les Moonves in Cannes, France, in June 2016, when he was CBS president (Photo: Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images)

Moonves was forced out of his position in September, after a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, including unwanted kissing and other touching. They alleged that Moonves punished them when they rejected his sexual advances by stalling their careers, and they said he made the network a toxic place to work.

At the time, Moonves issued a statement denying the allegations.

“Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am,” he said. “Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS. I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees.”

Additional women have come forward with accusations against Moonves in the months since. In one case, actress Cybill Shepherd alleged that her 1990s sitcom, Cybill, was canceled after she refused the former mogul’s advances. Moonves has rejected the idea that he retaliated against any women.

CBS has other problems, too, such as the sexual misconduct allegations against former CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose. Its report also examined whether such behavior was common among employees. Just last week, the New York Times reported that the actress Eliza Dushku had received a $9.5 million settlement from the network. Dushku alleged that she’d been written off the show Bull, in spite of plans for her to stay on, after she alleged that the show’s star, Michael Weatherly, sexually harassed her while filming the first few episodes. (Weatherly apologized for “making jokes mocking the script” and said he was “mortified” to have offended his co-star.)

In its investigation of harassment and retaliation, CBS concluded that neither are pervasive at the network.

“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 report concluded. “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.”

CBS has “already begun to take robust steps to improve the working environment for all employees,” officials said.

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