No generous severance package for former CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.
The CBS board of directors announced Monday that it has completed its investigation into the myriad allegations of sexual misconduct against its former chief and has decided there are grounds to “terminate for cause.” The most recent hit against the embattled executive came last month in the New York Times, which quoted a former actress named Bobbie Phillips who alleged that Moonves forced himself on her in 1995, when he ran Warner Bros. Television.
The story came almost three months after a bombshell report in The New Yorker about six women who accused the CEO of harassment and intimidation. Moonves ultimately stepped down as CEO while the company hired a team to look into the allegations, as well as the culture at CBS.
Here’s the board’s full statement:
“The Board of Directors of CBS has completed its investigation of former Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS News, and cultural issues at CBS.
“With regard to Mr. Moonves, we have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause, including his willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company policies and breach of his employment contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the Company’s investigation. Mr. Moonves will not receive any severance payment from the Company.
“As a result of their work, the investigators also concluded that harassment and retaliation are not pervasive at CBS. However, the investigators learned of past incidents of improper and unprofessional conduct, and concluded that the Company’s historical policies, practices and structures have not reflected a high institutional priority on preventing harassment and retaliation. The investigation determined that the resources devoted to the Company’s Human Resources function, to training and development, and to diversity and inclusion initiatives have been inadequate, given the size and complexity of CBS’ businesses. Employees also cited past incidents in which HR and the Company did not hold high performers accountable for their conduct and protect employees from retaliation.
“The Board, which includes six new members, and the Company’s new management have already begun to take robust steps to improve the working environment for all employees. Among other things, the Company appointed a new Chief People Officer, is actively engaged in ways to enhance and reimagine the Human Resources function, and has retained outside expert advisors to develop other initiatives for promoting a workplace culture of dignity, transparency, respect and inclusion. These efforts will continue to be a high priority for the Board and the Company’s management, and we will continue to work together to communicate with our workforce in that regard.
“We would like to thank everyone who cooperated with the investigation and applaud CBS’ employees for remaining focused on their jobs during this very difficult time. We look forward to the people of CBS returning their full attention to the outstanding work that they do every single day.”
In the recent NYT article, Moonves said, “I strongly believe that the sexual encounter with Ms. Phillips more than 20 years ago was consensual.” Phillips told the newspaper that in a meeting with the then-CBS programming executive when she was 25, Moonves told her, “Look how hard you make me,” and then exposed himself.
“Be my girlfriend and I’ll put you on any show,” Phillips recalled him saying to her.
Tim Hubbard, an assistant professor of management in the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said he’s not surprised that CBS refused to give Moonves a severance. “The company has been entangled in sexual harassment controversies and must try to bring back its reputation,” said Hubbard, who specializes in behavioral strategy. “CBS had to send a signal to employees and other stakeholders that these actions will not be tolerated within the company. This action should also serve as a signal to other executives that the public and boards of directors are tiring of allegation after allegation of sexual misconduct from executives. Hopefully, such a large penalty will start to change the culture of CBS — and firms across the world.”