Lawyers hired by CBS have found cause for the company’s board of directors to deny former chairman and chief executive, Leslie Moonves, a $120 million severance package. This is according to a draft of a 56-page report obtained by the New York Times which details the findings of an independent investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Moonves. Over the summer, The New Yorker dropped two bombshell reports detailing claims made by 12 women that Moonves sexually harassed or assaulted them, ultimately forcing Moonves to step down from his position at CBS in September. CBS hired two law firms, Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling, to determine whether Moonves violated the terms of his employment agreement.
According to the draft reviewed by the Times, the investigation found that 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,” including previously undisclosed allegations. The lawyers spoke to Moonves on four occasions, and was found to be “evasive and untruthful at times and to have deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct.”
“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 says, according to the Times.
Andrew J. Levander, a lawyer for Moonves, told the Times that his client “denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation” and “cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”
Investigators spoke with 11 out of 17 known accusers and found them to be credible, the report states. In addition, they learned Moonves had “received oral sex from at least 4 CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper,” including “multiple reports” about one network employee who was described as being “on call.”
“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. “Moonves admitted to receiving oral sex from the woman, his subordinate, in his office, but described it as consensual.”
The report goes on to say that “such a pattern arguably constitutes willful misfeasance and violation of the company’s sexual harassment policy.”
Levander told the Times that Moonves “never put or kept someone on the payroll for the purpose of sex.”
According to the report, at least one member of the CBS board was aware of an allegation against Moonves. Dr. Anne Peters told investigators that Moonves tried to kiss her and then masturbated in front of her during a consultation in 1999, an incident she later described to film producer Arnold Kopelson in an effort to dissuade him from joining the company’s board in 2007. Kopelson, who died in October, told Peters “that the incident had happened a long time ago and was trivial,” she recalled, according to the report, “and said, in effect, ‘We all did that.’”
Investigators also uncovered evidence that Moonves tried to buy at least one victim’s silence. As initially reported by the New York Times last month, actress Bobbie Phillips claimed Moonves forced her to perform oral sex in 1995, and last December, her manager, Marv Dauer, warned Moonves that she was “making noises” about going public and said that she was “always looking for work.” While Moonves did tell the company’s lawyers in January 2018 that an unnamed woman had made a sexual assault claim — which he denied — he did not disclose that he pushed a CBS casting director to offer Phillips a part on a network series (which she turned down).
According the Times’ review of the report, Moonves lied when he claimed he didn’t try to find work for anyone connected to Phillips, as investigators also learned that Moonves tried to get a job for another one of Dauer’s clients. Additionally, the report states that Moonves destroyed evidence by deleting many of the hundreds of text messages exchanged with Dauer, and deliberately turned over his son’s iPad to investigators instead of his own.
The report draft, dated November 27th, could still change before a final version is expected to be presented to CBS’s board next week, the Times notes.
“No findings have been reported to the board,” a spokesman for the investigators told the Times. “The board has reached no conclusions on this matter. The investigators and the board are committed to a thorough and fair process. … Our work is still in progress, and there are bound to be many facts and assessments that evolve and change as the work is completed.”