Four years after shocking sexual assault and harassment allegations came to light, Leslie Moonves, the former chief executive officer and president of CBS, and the network have been ordered to pay a collective $30.5 million to company shareholders, and to in order to “strengthen” the network’s system for reporting and investigating accusations of sexual harassment and assault.
The settlement, which was reached with the office of Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, is part of an investigation by the state prompted by suspicion that “CBS and its senior leadership knew about multiple allegations of sexual assault made against Mr. Moonves and intentionally concealed them from regulators, shareholders, and the public for months,” per CNN.
Between July and September 2018, a dozen women accused Moonves of sexual harassment, with allegations forming a distinct pattern: Moonves, many alleged, coerced or physically forced them into performing oral sex on him in the mid-90s to early-2000s. The former executive was also accused of physical intimidation and retaliation if rebuffed. In at least one case, former colleague and accuser Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb filed a criminal complaint against Moonves. Law-enforcement sources told the New Yorker that they found Golden-Gottlieb’s allegations credible and consistent, but the statutes of limitations had expired, making the claims unable to be litigated in court.
Perhaps more disturbingly, though, James’ office found that a since-retired Los Angeles police captain alerted CBS about Gottlieb’s complaint and took instructions from CBS and Moonves to “admonish” the woman not to make the allegations public. Shortly after she and scores of others did anyway, in 2018, Moonves stepped down from CBS. The police captain then wrote a note to the network, assuring, “We worked so hard to try to avoid this day,” and to Moonves, “I’m deeply sorry that this has happened. I will always stand with, by and pledge my allegiance to you.”
Initially, it was reported Moonves would receive a whopping $120 million in severance. Ultimately—due largely in part to the range of accusations—he never received the exit package. Other executives at the network, it’s been discovered, played a role in protecting Moonves.
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“As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors,” she added. “After trying to bury the truth to protect their fortunes, today CBS and Leslie Moonves are paying millions of dollars for their wrongdoing.”
Another executive, Gil Schwartz, sold over $8 million in CBS stock “weeks before the allegations became public,” which James’ office points to as evidence of insider trading: “The investigation also revealed that another senior executive at CBS—one of the few people who knew about the allegations—sold millions of dollars of CBS stock in the weeks before the allegations became public,” the statement read.
A spokesperson for Paramount Global, the parent company of CBS, told KTLA that it was “pleased to resolve this matter…without any admission of liability or wrongdoing,” adding that the “matter involved alleged misconduct by CBS’s former CEO, who was terminated for cause in 2018, and does not relate in any way to the current company.”
Moonves has not yet publicly responded to James’ report.