The two law firms that were hired by the CBS board of directors to investigate alleged misconduct apparently found a ton of it.
The New York Times, which has been publishing a series of explosive stories about ousted CBS CEO Les Moonves, says it has reviewed a 59-page draft report with the lawyers’ findings about Moonves.
“Based on the facts developed to date, we believe that the board would have multiple bases upon which to conclude that the company was entitled to terminate Moonves for cause,” the report says, according to The Times.
That would deny Moonves access to $120 million in severance that was set aside for him when he stepped down under pressure in September.
The legal report seen by the newspaper was a draft, so it could change before the full board of directors reads it. CNN has not reviewed the report. But the depictions in the Times of both sexual misconduct and corporate misconduct are damning.
Moonves, one of the most celebrated executives in Hollywood history, was accused of sexual harassment and assault by numerous women in a pair of stories by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow over the summer.
Since then, even more allegations have come to light, most recently in a Times story last week. The Times, citing text messages and other evidence, recounted how Moonves tried to keep an accuser silent by arranging possible jobs for her at CBS.
The fall of Moonves is a tale “about how people use every lever at their disposal to protect themselves,” Times reporter Rachel Abrams told CNN.
Tuesday night’s newest story, by Abrams and Edmund Lee, said that Moonves was required under the terms of his employment contract to cooperate fully with the probe by the law firms — Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton. But, the Times story says, he “destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an attempt to preserve his reputation and save a lucrative severance deal, according to a draft of a report prepared for the company’s board.”
A lawyer for Moonves told the newspaper that Moonves “cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”
But the law firms found evidence to the contrary. For example, Moonves “handed over his son’s iPad instead of his own,” in an apparent bid to conceal damaging text messages, The Times reported.
Moonves’ lawyer also said his client “denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation,” while acknowledging some incidents that he says were consensual.
But the report by the law firms, as quoted by The Times, said Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace” both before and after he joined CBS in 1995.
Moonves’s lawyer did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
And a spokesman for the CBS Corporation declined to comment on the new reporting. The company is scheduled to hold its annual meeting next Tuesday, December 11, and The Times says the law firms will officially present their findings to the board sometime before then.
When reached for comment on Tuesday night, a spokesman for the CBS board of directors shared a statement from the investigators.
“No findings have been reported to the board,” the statement said. “The board has reached no conclusions on this matter. The investigators and the board are committed to a thorough and fair process.”
James B. Stewart, a member of the Times reporting team and a business columnist for the newspaper, wrote on Tuesday night that the law firms’ report shows an “epic failure of corporate governance.”
In recent months the CBS board and the upper management ranks have been reshaped, in large part by controlling shareholder Shari Redstone and interim CEO Joe Ianniello.