Leslie Moonves is alleged to have misled investigators working on behalf of CBS Corp. and attempted to obstruct a probe into claims of sexual harassment during his time at and before he was employed by the company, according to a report in The New York Times.
The Times says it has reviewed a draft of a report prepared by lawyers who have been hired by the board of directors of the New York media company. CBS in August hired Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton, two top-flight legal entities, to investigate not only allegations made against Moonves, the company’s longtime leader, and also “cultural issues at all levels of CBS.” According to the Times, the report alleges Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995.” The report also contains other allegations of sexual misconduct against him that had not been previously disclosed, the Times said.
The new revelations virtually assure that the once-storied television executive will be denied any portion of a severance package valued at around $120 million. Moonves’ employment agreement with CBS Corp. specifies that if he is fired for cause, the company can withhold the payment.
CBS Corp. is expected to hold its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday in New York. The report is said to have been prepared for board members to discuss in a private session after the public meeting.
CBS in September disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had set aside $120 million as a potential severance payment for Moonves, with another $20 million set aside to be paid to “one or more charitable organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.” That money was originally also to be part of Moonves’ exit package.
Moonves’ payment was already in doubt after the Times revealed in a report last week that he sought to keep quiet a previously undisclosed claim of sexual assault by an actress named Bobbie Phillips, and subsequently tried to find her employment with CBS projects after her manager, Marv Dauer, approached him about the incident. That account alleged the executive had removed text messages with Dauer from an iPad in an attempt to keep hidden his efforts from the board’s inquiry. The lawyers’ report disclosed Moonves had provided investigators with his son’s iPad, rather than his own.
The latest claims are sordid. The Times said the report contained allegations that Moonves “received oral sex from at least 4 CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity (especially given what we know about his history of more or less forced oral sex with women with whom he has no ongoing relationship).” Investigators also noted they had received multiple reports about a CBS employee who was “on call” to perform oral sex on the executive.
An attorney for Moonves told the Times that the executive had never kept an employee on the payroll “for the purpose of sex.”
Representatives for CBS declined comment. A representative for the investigators at the law firms conducting the probe said that the CBS board, which was overhauled with five new members and six departures after Moonves’ ouster on Sept. 9, has not yet been presented with the findings of the five-month investigation.
“The Board has reached no conclusions on this matter,” the spokesman said. “The investigators and the Board are committed to a thorough and fair process. No draft of the investigators’ ongoing work product has been shared with the Board or the Company. Our work is still in progress and there are bound to be many facts and assessments that evolve and change as the work is completed. Anyone who may have disclosed draft information to the New York Times did so without authority and in violation of their obligations.“