Les Moonves is officially out as CEO of CBS after new sexual abuse claims surfaced. Can he be sued by his alleged victims?
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“Well generally, yes. I say generally because I don’t know how old these allegations are,” Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on Monday. “He’s claiming these are 20 and 30 years ago. There is a statute of limitations. It’s two years for injury to the body. It’s six years for financial loss. So if these things happened more than six years ago they are not going to go anywhere with the lawsuit but generally of course he could be sued if within the statute.”
CBS announced on Sunday evening that the embattled executive would step down on Monday, following another weekend write-up from journalist Ronan Farrow.
“Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am,” Moonves wrote in a statement of his exit. “Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS.”
Napolitano said CBS also faces potential legal responsibility over the allegations.
“As I understand the allegations, and he denies them, but as I understand them, they allege that he used his corporate authority to badger and in some cases to force women to touch his body and in a way that they didn’t want to,” he said. “So CBS is liable for the alleged misuse or abuse of the authority CBS gave to Les Moonves? Absolutely.”
Moonves’ will reportedly leave the company with a lavish exit package, potentially worth as much as $100 million, according to reports.
Moonves and CBS will also contribute $20 million to support the #MeToo movement, the company said in a filing.
According to Napolitano, CBS can compensate for the losses that Moonves incurs as a result of litigation.
“Sometimes the severance package will include an indemnification,” he said. “In other words sometimes the severance package will say we were going to give you $120 million. We are going to give you $100 [million] and indemnify you from all the lawsuits; we’ll fight them.”
But perhaps the biggest winner in Napolitano’s opinion is Shari Redstone.
“[Ms. Redstone has said] the biggest obstacle was the presence of Les Moonves, so when CBS attempted to dilute the voting power of the Redstone stock … they own 79 percent of CBS,” Napolitano said. “When CBS attempted to dilute that, that resulted in litigation in federal court here in New York City. A trial was to begin next month. CBS and Redstone’s lawyers told the judge we want a two-year cooling off period… They’ll settle this in two weeks with Moonves gone. Big winner for her. My opinion she will personally choose the next CEO.”
Shares of CBS shares were down more than 3 percent on Monday following the announcement.