CBS Confirms Les Moonves Will Fight For His $120M Exit Package

Les Moonves CBS
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In a terse regulatory filing, CBS has confirmed that its former CEO, Les Moonves, isn’t going away without a fight.

In December, the company’s board cited the findings of its internal investigation in declaring that Moonves had been fired for cause and would therefore not be eligible for the $120 million exit package included in his contract.

CBS noted in an 8K filed with the SEC that the separation agreement it reached with Moonves last September included a provision letting him demand binding arbitration. After a 24-year run at the company, half of which was spent as CEO, Moonves departed under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations.

On Tuesday, CBS revealed in today’s filing, “Mr. Moonves notified the company of his election to demand binding arbitration with respect to this matter. The company does not intend to comment further on this matter during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings.”

The effort by Moonves to contest the board’s decision has been expected since the board’s announcement December 17. A spokesman for Moonves did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When the board decision first came to light, Moonves attorney Andrew Levander reacted and blasted its conclusions as “foreordained” and “without merit.” He added, “Consistent with the pattern of leaks that have permeated this ‘process,’ the press was informed of these baseless conclusions before Mr. Moonves, further damaging his name, reputation, career and legacy.”

As CBS goes about the challenging task of moving past the Moonves era, Wall Street generally has given approving nods to its progress. But the arbitration phase and a looming legal battle will keep the former regime in the headlines for a while longer.

CBS just conducted a two-day virtual town hall whose anodyne tone seems notable given the timing before today’s news. One employee asked about the $120 million denied Moonves and what would happen to those funds. Acting CEO Joe Ianniello said the money would be reinvested into the company.

The decision to deny Moonves severance became all but inevitable as 2018 wound to a close, especially in light of the disclosures from a draft of an internal report obtained by the New York Times. The document revealed that Moonves had destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an effort to protect his reputation and payout. In that preliminary report, investigators said they had substantiated numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and uncovered previously undisclosed allegations of wrongdoing.

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