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Leslie Moonves has decided to challenge CBS’ conclusion that it had cause to fire him and deny him $120 million in severance. The former CEO has moved ahead with an arbitration demand, a procedure that was spelled out in his separation agreement with the company.
On Dec. 17, after a months-long investigation into whether Moonves had sexually harassed several women over the course of decades, CBS announced that there were grounds to fire him with cause. Specifically, CBS said at the time that Moonves willfully violated both company policy and his employment agreement and failed to cooperate with the investigation led by two law firms hired by the company.
Although CBS didn’t make public the investigatory report, The New York Times reported last month that the former CBS CEO “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace,” deliberately lied during the course of the investigation and even destroyed evidence in an attempt to preserve his reputation.
Upon CBS’ announcement, Moonves’ attorney, Andrew Levander, issued a statement that characterized the decision as “foreordained” and “without merit,” adding that Moonves “vehemently denies any nonconsensual sexual relations and cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”
Moonves had 30 days to file an arbitration demand.
Details of his challenge aren’t public, but employment lawyers expect Moonves to challenge the “willfulness” of his conduct as well as attack the impartiality of the investigators with a history of representing CBS plus raise issues related to the leaking of the investigatory report. Once in arbitration, Moonves may also probe sexual misconduct by others at CBS and complicity on the part of the company’s board members.
The arbitration will occur privately, though CBS could face media and shareholder pressure to disclose the outcome. The arbitration will also occur as CBS hunts for a new CEO and as questions continue to linger about possible mergers.
Moonves’ reps did not respond to a request for comment.
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