Nearly three years after Les Moonves was tossed off his perch at CBS over allegations of sexual misconduct, the onetime corporate powerhouse has finally settled disputes over his $120 million exit package with the Sheri Redstone-controlled company.
“The disputes between Mr. Moonves and CBS have now been resolved, and on May 14, 2021, the parties dismissed the arbitration proceeding,” a filing today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission noted. Long legal battle short: the $120 million severance that has been in a guarantor trust for the past couple of years will now “revert to the Company in their entirety,” according to the short document filed with the feds in a classic Friday news dump.
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“Leslie Moonves, CBS and a contractor to CBS have resolved their disputes,” read a joint statement today from Moonves and ViacomCBS. “The cost of the settlement will be borne by the contractor,” the statement added. “Mr. Moonves has decided to contribute the entire settlement amount to various charities. There will be no further comment regarding this settlement by Mr. Moonves or CBS.”
Umm, okay. However, in case you are wondering, that “contractor to CBS” is actually law firm Covington & Burling. Partially charged with probing the claims against Moonves for CBS, the firm became part of the investigation so to speak after leaks galore sprung as to who was talking to who about what and a great slab of confidentiality for many concerned was washed away. All of which tangled up CBS in what they had hoped would be a clean and payless break with Moonves.
Today, Debevoise & Plimpton, the other firm participating in the initial Moonves probe, made sure today that no one tagged them as the aforementioned “contractor.”
“Debevoise is not party to any agreements with any parties concerning its work for CBS, and no one connected to the firm leaked any confidential information related to our work for CBS,” the firm said in a statement.
Fighting attempts by Redstone to re-merge Viacom and CBS if he couldn’t be the boss, Moonves’ ouster after numerous claims of sexual misconduct was eventually handled fairly surgically over a weeeknd in September 2018.
Soon afterwards, the CBS board “announced that it had determined that there were grounds to terminate Mr. Moonves’ employment for cause under his employment agreement with the Company,” as today’s filing states, a ruling that essentially snatched the big bucks severance out of Moonves’ hands. There were also another $20 million in various bonuses the ex-CEO was entitled to that were subsequently directed to charities and nonprofits such a Time’s Up – which is probably what the “various charities” referred to in today’s statement.
In January 2019, as reports of destroyed evidence and misleading statements to investigators were published, Moonves’ reps revealed after 24 years at CBS wasn’t going to just walk away with at least making a play for the nine-digit payout. As CBS confirmed in an earlier SEC filing that year, the arbitration that ended today started then per the terms of Moonves’ contract.
BTW, if you are looking for more sordid details, chew on this: Moonves was paid around $69 million in 2016 and 2017, his last two full years at CBS.
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