Les Moonves could lose $120 million payout for obstructing investigators, report says

A report by lawyers for CBS found that the network would be justified in denying former CEO Les Moonves a $120 million severance payout because he destroyed evidence and misled investigators looking into accusations of sexual misconduct, the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing a draft of a report prepared for the company’s board.

According to the Times, the report said 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.”

Andrew J. Levander, Moonves’s lawyer, said Moonves “denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation” and “cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”

Levander did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap on Tuesday. CBS declined to comment.

The Times said the report was drafted late in November and could change before it is presented to CBS’s full board ahead of the company’s annual meeting next week.

The newspaper said lawyers who conducted the inquiry said they had spoken with Moonves four times, and found him to be “evasive and untruthful at times” and to have “deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct.”

Two firms, Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling, investigated in part to determine if Moonves violated his employment agreement, which would allow the company to fire him for cause and not pay his severance.

“Based on the facts developed to date, we believe that the board would have multiple bases upon which to conclude that the company was entitled to terminate Moonves for cause,” the report reads, according to the Times.

Last week, the Times reported on a new accusation against Moonves: That he conspired with the former manager of actress Bobbie Phillips to keep her from coming forward to accuse him of sexual assault. Moonves said last week that the encounter was consensual.

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Moonves was accused of sexual misconduct by six women in a July New Yorker article written by Ronan Farrow. Six more women came forward in August. Moonves resigned as CEO of CBS in September following a two-month investigation, but has denied all accusations.

The report also includes previously undisclosed accusations of sexual misconduct, the Times said.

The Times said the report found that Moonves received oral sex from at least four 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).”

Lawyers were not able to speak with the women, the Times said, but concluded that “such a pattern” would violate the company’s sexual harassment policy.

Investigators also said they received “multiple reports” that a CBS employee was “on call” to perform oral sex on Moonves.

“A number of employees were aware of this and believed that the woman was protected from discipline or termination as a result of it,” the lawyers wrote, according to the Times. “Moonves admitted to receiving oral sex from the woman, his subordinate, in his office, but described it as consensual.”

The woman did not respond to the investigators’ interview requests.

Moonves lawyer, Levander, told the Times that Moonves had “never put or kept someone on the payroll for the purpose of sex.”

The Times also said the report found that Gil Schwartz, CBS’s communications head, had known since late 2017 about some of accusations against Moonves, according to the report, and learned in August that Moonves once gave his doctor an unwanted kiss, before it became public in a Vanity Fair article.

The Times said the report also contained the detail that after discussing the situation with Moonves, Schwartz wrote him a resignation letter, but Moonves didn’t sign it. Schwartz did not tell the board about the letter, the Times said, citing the report.

The report also said that there was a “bright line” when Moonves’ misconduct stopped, the Times said: When he married Julie Chen, now the host of “Big Brother,” in 2004.

Read the full Times report here.