Facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations and fearing his career as an entertainment titan was over, Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an attempt to preserve his reputation and save a lucrative severance deal, according to a draft of a report prepared for the company’s board.
The report, by lawyers hired by the network, says the company has justification to deny Moonves his $120 million severance. Mr. Moonves reigned as one of Hollywood’s most successful and celebrated executives for decades before being forced to resign in September after allegations by numerous women.
The report, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, says 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.” The report includes previously undisclosed allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The lawyers who conducted the inquiry wrote that 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.”
Moonves shaped the television landscape for more than 30 years. Even before his CBS tenure, he had an outsize role in producing shows like the 1980s sitcom “Full House” and the 1990s megahits “ER” and “Friends.” At CBS, he turned around a moribund network with audience-friendly smashes like “Survivor,” the police procedural “C.S.I.” and its multiple spinoffs, and sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Big Bang Theory.” For the past decade, CBS has been the most-watched network.
But in September, Moonves’s run at the network ended in ignominious fashion when he negotiated his exit shortly after 12 women told The New Yorker that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them. Since then, the possibility that he could still receive his very lucrative package has infuriated many people.
CBS’s board hired two law firms, Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling, to conduct an independent investigation to determine, in part, if . Moonves violated the terms of his employment agreement. That would allow the company to fire him for cause and withhold 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 says.
Andrew J. Levander, Moonves’s lawyer, said Moonves “denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation” and “cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”