Former CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves will pursue an arbitration claim to fight CBS for the $120 million severance that he was denied last month when the company’s board of directors determined he was fired for cause.
Moonves was ousted in September after multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the longtime industry leader.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Thursday, CBS disclosed that Moonves has informed the company of his plan to take the board’s decision to arbitration. A spokesman for Moonves declined to comment.
“On January 16, 2019, Mr. Moonves notified the Company of his election to demand binding arbitration with respect to this matter. The Company does not intend to comment further on this matter during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings,” the filing stated.
Moonves’ decision to fight for his severance had been expected. His lawyer, Andrew Lavender, blasted the decision made by the CBS board of directors last month when they disclosed the determination that Moonves was fired for violating numerous company policies including those involving sexual harassment. Moonves has maintained that his sexual encounters were all consensual.
“The conclusions of the CBS board were foreordained and are without merit,” Lavender said after the board’s decision was announced on Dec. 17.
The terms of Moonves’ lucrative employment contract with CBS spelled out that disputes would be handled privately through mediators governed by the American Arbitration Association. Moonves deal was to have run through 2021. But two exposes published by the New Yorker in July and September featured disturbing accounts from multiple women of alleged abuses dating back decades.
Moonves’ ouster coincided with a massive overhaul of the CBS board of directors at the direction of controlling shareholder Shari Redstone. Moonves and Redstone had been battling in court for control of Viacom at the time the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced. In settling the corporate litigation, Moonves agreed to step down and the CBS board was redrawn over the past few months with six new members appointed to the 11-member panel.
The Moonves arbitration process could be another distraction for the board as it pursues its search for a new CEO. At the same time, it’s no secret that CBS’ board will be wrestling soon with an even bigger-picture question about its future and whether it should reunite with the other half the Redstone empire, Viacom. The board is believed to be set to gather Jan. 31 for a regularly scheduled meeting.