During much of CEO Les Moonves’ tenure at CBS Corp., CBS has been America’s most popular broadcast network. Hits like “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS” helped make Moonves one of the industry’s highest-paid and most powerful executives. He has now resigned from the network after a new round of allegations were brought against him by six women who worked with him in the past.
According to Reuters, Moonves had been expecting to receive about $100 million in severance. Now, CBS has announced that it will place Moonves’ expected severance into a trust pending the outcome of an internal investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations. Moonves may end up with nothing if the investigation finds fault. The board will decide by Jan. 31, and its decision will be subject to binding arbitration.
Moonves has announced he wishes to make a $20-million donation to organizations supporting the #MeToo movement and gender equality in the workplace. The Associated Press reports that CBS will make the donation immediately and deduct it from any severance paid to Moonves.
The latest allegations were reported by The New Yorker magazine. Six women allege that Moonves forced unwanted touching or sex acts on them and/or retaliated when his advances were spurned. Moonves has acknowledged consensual sex with three of the women but denies any forcible sex or retaliation. Previously, six other women made similar accusations.
One of the new accusers told The New Yorker that Moonves assaulted her in the late 1980s, when he was an executive at Lorimar production studio. He allegedly pushed her head into his lap and forced her to perform oral sex on him. When she refused later advances, he allegedly froze her out of the company.
“He absolutely ruined my career,” she said.
Moonves responded to the allegations by accusing the alleged victims of conspiring against him.
“I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” he told reporters. “In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me.”
These allegations are indeed disturbing and correcting the situation may require substantial, systemic efforts. CBS has a legal responsibility to perform a fair investigation and to protect its employees from any discrimination or harassment the investigation turns up. If Moonves’ alleged misconduct continued while he was at CBS, the network may be sending the right message by denying him a large severance.