You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Leslie Moonves Investigation: CBS Can Disclose the Findings

CBS Corp. does have the right to publicly release details of its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against former chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves.

The question of whether CBS would release the findings of the investigation now under way was raised on Monday in the fine print in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing regarding the exit agreement that CBS reached with Moonves on Sunday. Moonves’ forced resignation came hours after Ronan Farrow published a second expose in the New Yorker featuring six women alleging they were victims of sexual assault and misconduct from Moonves going back to the 1980s. Moonves has denied some of the claims.

The exit agreement contained a clause under the heading “Confidentiality” that spells out CBS’ obligation to “seek to preserve the confidentiality of all written and oral reports by the investigators in the Internal Investigation and all information and findings developed by the investigators or included in such written or oral reports in relation to Executive (the “Investigator Information”) and not to make public such Investigator Information to the maximum extent possible consistent with fiduciary duties of directors and all applicable laws.”

The language was widely interpreted as a restrictive covenant that would prevent CBS from disclosing details of the investigation. That raised hackles among advocates and activists, and even drew criticism on CBS’ own air Tuesday morning from “CBS This Morning” anchor Gayle King.

But CBS does have the right to release information per the final clause of that long sentence of legal-ese: “to the maximum extent possible consistent with the fiduciary duties of directors and all applicable laws.”

According to a source close to the situation, this language means that if CBS’ board of directors decides that releasing the findings of the investigation is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders, the board has the right to do so.

Given the outrage spurred by the allegations against Moonves, it’s probably a safe bet the board will release at least some details of the investigation now being conducted by two prominent law firms, Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton. As King observed on “CBS This Morning”: “I don’t know how we move forward if we don’t — we at CBS – don’t have full transparency about what we find…In our own house we must have transparency.”

The probe is looking into Moonves’ behavior during his 24-year tenure at CBS as well as allegations that aspects of CBS’ corporate culture can be hostile for female employees.

The result of the investigation will determine whether Moonves will receive any of the $120 million now set aside in a trust for his severance package. If the probe finds evidence that the former CEO engaged in sexual harassment and assault, he will be terminated for cause and not receive any severance. Under his previous contract, Moonves was in line for a whopping golden parachute of $180 million or more. But that was before his legacy at CBS was severely tarnished by allegations from more than a dozen women.

The prospect of CBS making a big final payout to Moonves has sparked anger in many quarters. Moonves’ exit agreement coincided with the settlement of a separate legal battle between CBS and its controlling shareholder, National Amusements Inc. As part of that settlement, the CBS board has been overhauled with six new members joining the panel of 13 directors. The reconstituted board will be under extreme scrutiny as they grapple with the issue of Moonves’ severance payment.

Moonves’ exit agreement was hammered out by attorneys Daniel Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers and Ron Olson of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Petrocelli and a PR rep for Moonves did not immediately return requests for comment.

A representative for CBS’ board of directors also declined to comment.

More TV

  • Series Mania: Q & A with

    Series Mania: ‘Hierro’ as ‘Southern Noir’ and an Industry Groundbreaker

    LILLE, France —  Banijay Rights-sold “Hierro” begins with sea, land, air and fire: Shots of the stunning volcanic isle of El Hierro, the most westerly point of Spain’s Canary Islands, with its black basalt rock, brown iron-rich gravel, white waves pummeling the coast, trees trunks twisted by wind and lava, a juniper bent double by [...]

  • Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy

    Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy for Endemol Shine (EXCLUSIVE)

    Acclaimed Indian director, Shekhar Kapur is to direct a TV series for Endemol Shine based on historical novels by Amitav Ghosh, known as the “Ibis Trilogy.” The deal was announced at Series Mania in Lille. The books “Sea of Poppies,” “River of Smoke,” and “Flood of Fire,” are set in mid-19th century Asia. They interweave [...]

  • ‘Lambs Of God’ To World Premiere

    Lingo Pictures, Endemol Shine’s ‘Lambs of God’ Set for Series Mania World Premiere

    LILLE, France — Lingo Pictures Productions and Endemol Shine’s new Australian limited series “Lambs of God,” based on the Australian novel of the same name by Marele Day, world premieres on Wednesday, March 27 in the main International Competition at this year’s Series Mania festival. The series follows three devout nuns, the last sisters of [...]

  • Bruno DEBRANDT (Florent) et Julie GAYET

    Federation Acquires Intl. Sales Rights on Series Mania French Competition Player ‘Torn’

    LILLE, France — Leading French independent production-finance-distribution sales company Federation Entertainment has secured international sales rights on upcoming French psychological thriller “Torn.” The series was created and written by director Lionel Bailliu (“Innocente”)and Yann Le Gal (“Léo Mattéï, Brigade des Mineurs”) and world premieres in the official French competition on March 25 at France’s Series [...]

  • About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands

    About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands as APC Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

    As it celebrates its fifth anniversary, the rising Paris-based TV production and distribution company About Premium Content is rebranding as APC Studios to reflect the expanded scope of its activities. APC Studios, which launched as a sales company in 2014, is now a producer, financier and distributor of upscale projects ranging from scripted to factual [...]

  • Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele and Simon

    'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Twilight Zone' Bring Energy, Emotion to PaleyFest

    Both the CBS All Access shows “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Twilight Zone” reboot held PaleyFest panels on Sunday, with both sets of cast and creators bringing energy, humor, and emotion to the stage. Both panels were moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. First up was “Discovery,” where series star Doug [...]

  • Marvel's Runaways Review

    'Marvel's Runaways' Renewed for Third Season at Hulu

    Hulu has renewed “Marvel’s Runaways” for a third season. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Runaways” stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta as the Runaways, six teenagers from different backgrounds who unite against their parents, the Pride, portrayed by Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, and James Yaegashi. The new order is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content