CBS Board Decides No Severance for Moonves

$120M forgone amid sexual harassment complaints
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The CBS Board of Directors has decided that former CEO Les Moonves can be dismissed for cause and will not receive any of the $120 million in severance payments called for in his contract.

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The investigators, which were also looking into problems at CBS News and its 60 Minutes program, also concluded that harassment and retaliation “are not pervasive at CBS.”

Moonves, who was in a battle with CBS’s controlling shareholder, the family of Sumner Redstone, was also accused by a number of women for sexual harassment and assault.

CBS chief Les Moonves

Les Moonves

The board hired a pair of law firms to investigate the allegations. They found 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 in a statement.

In September a settlement was reached between the Redstones’ investment company, National Amusements, and CBS, which had been trying to dilute National Amusements’ voting rights. As part of that agreement, Moonves departed and some of his severance was granted to anti-harassment groups.

While the investigators found that harassment was not “pervasive” at CBS, “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 board said in a statement.

“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 said.

After Moonves’ departure, CBS named a new chief people officer.

“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,”  the board said in its statement. “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.”

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