11:16am PT by Eriq Gardner
CBS Chief Leslie Moonves Hires Legal Superstar for Sexual Misconduct Probe
Leslie Moonves is gearing up for a fight over sexual misconduct allegations in a big way. According to multiple sources, the CBS chief executive has hired Daniel Petrocelli to represent him in the ongoing internal investigation.
Earlier this month, CBS announced that that former SEC chairman Mary Jo White at Debevoise & Plimpton and ex-federal prosecutor Nancy Kestenbaum at Covington & Burling would be leading the probe. The examination into Moonves' conduct follows a July 27 New Yorker exposé that detailed how Moonves allegedly made unwanted sexual advances on several women employed by CBS.
Thanks to his employment contract, Moonves will have to cooperate with investigators, but he will be coming with a big legal gun by his side.
Petrocelli's most recent success was successfully defending the merger between AT&T and Time Warner upon the government's antitrust lawsuit. He became famous in the late 1990s winning a civil lawsuit against O.J. Simpson on behalf of the family of Ron Goldman. Since then, he has participated in other high-profile matters, including representing Jeffrey Skilling in the former Enron CEO's criminal trial and handling the Trump University fraud case on behalf of Donald Trump.
The 64-year-old O'Melveny & Myers partner considers himself to be particularly adept at turning around losing situations. He also has a reputation for being aggressive.
Petrocelli, though, wouldn't confirm being tapped by Moonves. CBS wouldn't comment, either.
The hire suggests that whatever evidence is uncovered in the investigation, Moonves will hardly move aside without raising a fuss. He is due about $200 million in salary, bonuses and stock rewards over the next four years of his contract. But he would lose much of this pay if he is fired "for cause." Of course, headed toward an October trial with its controlling shareholder (National Amusements, owned by Sumner and Shari Redstone), CBS might not wish to oust Moonves at this moment.
Firing him could provoke a wrongful termination lawsuit. A negotiated settlement is also a possibility. Regardless of the outcome, it appears the investigation and the aftermath will be a heavily lawyered affair.