At Tuesday’s CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) annual shareholders meeting at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, attendees threaded their way through protesters gathered outside who were demanding that the company refuse to pay the $120 million severance package negotiated with former Chair and CEO Les Moonves.
Moonves left his position in early September following allegations of sexual harassment from 12 women, allegations that Moonves denied and said were consensual with “some” of the women. At the time, CBS said that the company and Moonves would donate $20 million “to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.”
CBS has agreed to a $120 million severance package for Moonves, but a continuing internal investigation is looking into whether Moonves was terminated for cause. A determination by a board committee is due no later than January 31, 2019, and Moonves could appeal the decision if it goes against him.
UltraViolet, a national women’s group, and the National Organization of Women (NOW) NY are demanding that the CBS board of directors refuse to pay such a massive severance package. UltraViolet co-founder and executive director, Shaunna Thomas, said:
With clear evidence proving that former CEO Les Moonves engaged in multiple acts of sexual abuse and used his position of power in attempt to undermine the investigation into his actions – CBS’ Board of Directors should move swiftly to fire Moonves for cause and deny him his $120 million golden parachute. CBS needs to send a clear message to all of their employees that the company stands with survivors of sexual abuse, that they will hold abusers accountable and that the new norm in corporate America is that if you abuse women, you will lose your job and your golden parachute.
NOW NY President Sonia Ossorio added:
After years of sexually harassing and abusing women at CBS, the company must do right by past, current and future employees. That starts with not rewarding Les Moonves with a fortune many lifetimes over. We implore shareholders and board members to start setting the company’s course in a new direction, one that values its employees more than a narcissistic predator CEO who never thought he was accountable to anyone.
The New York Times reported last week that investigators believe that Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace” then lied about the acts during the investigation and may have destroyed evidence. The Times story was based on a leaked copy of the CBS board committee’s draft report and Moonves has threatened to sue CBS for the breaking a confidentiality agreement.
It seems pretty clear from the board committee’s draft report that prior to the Times story, Moonves was going to get nothing but a handshake on his way out the door. If that happens and Moonves chooses to proceed with a lawsuit, then all the details become public, something that he is now threatening a lawsuit to stop. Which is more valuable: $120 million or a tattered reputation that gets publicly shredded?