Leslie Moonves challenges CBS move to nix $120M severance package

Former CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves is challenging the media giant’s bid to withhold his $120 million severance package after his removal last September amid allegations of sexual misconduct, the company disclosed in a regulatory finding.

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CBS said it had grounds to terminate Moonves for violations of his employment agreement with the company. The 69-year-old executive was accused of misconduct by 17 women over a period of several decades, and two law firms hired by CBS to examine his actions alleged that he had attempted to obstruct their investigation.

“On January 16, 2019, Mr. Moonves notified the Company of his election to demand binding arbitration with respect to this matter,” CBS said in the filing. “The Company does not intend to comment further on this matter during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings.”

Moonves’ representatives have repeatedly denied that he engaged in any wrongdoing and stated that he cooperated with internal investigations. The $120 million owed to Moonves under his original contract has remained in escrow since he stepped down last September, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The case will eventually head to arbitration, unless the two sides reach a settlement out of court.

The New York Post reported last December that Moonves was considering a lawsuit against CBS after the investigation’s findings leaked to the press. The internal report found that CBS had grounds to fire Moonves for cause, citing interviews with 11 of the 17 women who publicly accused him of misconduct.

Moonves was alleged to have engaged in “transactional” relationships with at least four CBS employees.

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“Mr. Moonves vehemently denies having any non-consensual sexual relations,” Moonves’ attorney said in a statement in December. “He never put or kept someone on the payroll for the purpose of sex. He has cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”