CBS board says Les Moonves will not receive $120 million severance

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(CBS News) The board of directors for CBS Corp. said Monday it found grounds to terminate ousted CEO Leslie Moonves “for cause” and will not pay out a severance package worth $120 million.

In a statement, the board said it made its decision following the completion of a months long investigation into allegations of harassment and assault against Moonves and cultural issues throughout CBS and CBS News.

“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 board said.

The board also said the investigation had concluded that “harassment and retaliation” are not pervasive at CBS, though it acknowledged past instances of “improper and unprofessional conduct.” The CBS board has not said whether it would publicly release the results of the investigation.

The statement said past policies at CBS had not “reflected a high institutional priority on preventing harassment and retaliation,” calling out a lack of resources devoted to human resources, training and diversity.

The findings are the result of an investigation by two law firms — Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling — which the board hired in August. The investigation comes 13 months after the firing of Charlie Rose, who was co-host of “CBS This Morning” before being ousted over reports of sexual misconduct. 

Moonves was fired in September following allegations of sexual harassment, assault and retaliation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

He was among the highest-paid executives, taking home nearly $70 million in cash and stock in each of the past two years. Moonves can fight the board’s decision in arbitration, though he has not said whether he would. 

An attorney for Moonves issued the following statement: “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.”

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