Time's Up Asks CBS to Drop Leslie Moonves Without Golden Parachute

Leslie Moonves - Milken Institute Global Conference - Getty-H 2018

"A $100 million settlement sends a message to survivors everywhere that powerful men can act without fear of consequence," the organization said.

Any golden parachute for Leslie Moonves won't happen without heavy scrutiny for CBS and its board of directors. 

Time's Up, the organization founded by Hollywood heavyweights in early January this year following the wave of #MeToo sexual harassment claims last fall, is directly asking the CBS to not settle with the embattled network chief if he exits over several misconduct claims. 

"This is a precedent-setting moment for CBS — and culture at large. A man accused of rigorously reported allegations of harassment should not be rewarded with a golden parachute. Les Moonves walking away with a $100 million settlement sends a message to survivors everywhere that powerful men can act without fear of consequence," the organization said Thursday in a statement. 

The network chief is one of the highest-paid executives in media, with earnings totaling $69.3 million last year and $69.6 million in 2016. If CBS were to part ways with Moonves, his golden parachute could be worth more than $180 million. 

Moonves, who was accused by six women of sexual misconduct in a New Yorker investigation by Ronan Farrow published July 27, admitted "that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances," but said in a statement that "I always understood and respected — and abided by the principle — that 'no' means 'no,' and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career."

Producer Christine Peters, actress Illeana Douglas and writers Janet Jones and Dinah Kirgo were among those quoted in Farrow's article speaking out about Moonves' alleged behavior and CBS' corporate culture. 

On Aug. 1, the 14-member CBS board of directors hired the law firms of Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton to conduct an independent investigation of Moonves and formed a special committee to handle the probe. Moonves, a board member, is recused from the investigation, which is being led by former federal prosecutor Nancy Kestenbaum and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Mary Jo White.

Moonves, who has run CBS since 2003, has yet to address the allegations publicly beyond his initial statement.

Ultraviolet, a women's advocacy group, had also called on the network not to settle with the network chief. “If the CBS board gives Moonves any amount of severance in the event of his termination or resignation, you will compound the damage you've already inflicted on the progress towards stopping sexual violence with your decision to allow Moonves to continue working,” stated UltraViolet co-founder and executive director Shaunna Thomas in a letter to the CBS board dated Aug. 23. 

Time's Up, in its criticism of a potential settlement with Moonves, also included a link to a crowdfunding effort for its defense fund for victims of harassment. That effort has raised more that $22 million. The group was launched with high-profile backers that include Reese Witherspoon, Megan Ellison, Jennifer Aniston, Ava DuVernay. 

The Time's Up statement added, "We remain in solidarity with the six women who bravely shared their stories, risking their own incomes and careers, as well as the untold other women who may still be afraid to speak out. One hundred million dollars is an enormous sum of money. In fact, it's more than the average American woman will earn over the course of 50 lifetimes. Rather than reward an alleged predator, this $100 million could fund the legal defenses of countless women and men facing workplace harassment and abuse across the country."