Les Moonves, the former head of CBS, actively obstructed an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted employees, according to a draft report obtained by The New York Times. As a result, Moonves may be barred from receiving the controversial $120 million severance package he had been promised under his contract.
The report, which lawyers working for CBS prepared for the company’s board, also includes previously unreported allegations against Moonves, according to the Times.
The newspaper said the lawyers spoke to 11 women with allegations against Moonves and collected secondhand reports about other allegations. The lawyers found credible reports of harassment and also determined that Moonves received oral sex from at least four employees “under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity (especially given what we know about his history of more or less forced oral sex with women with whom he has no ongoing relationship).”
The lawyers also heard multiple reports of an employee kept on staff who was “on call” to provide oral sex to Moonves.
Moonves has rejected allegations of nonconsensual sexual misconduct and, through a lawyer, denied to the Times that an employee was kept on payroll for sexual purposes.
A number of women have come forward publicly to accuse Moonves of forcible kissing during business meetings, forcing female colleagues to perform oral sex and retaliating against those who declined his advances.
The report also details how Moonves attempted to interfere with the lawyers’ investigation into his behavior, according to the Times‘ reporting.
Moonves was “evasive and untruthful,” deliberately lying about his misconduct, the lawyers found. He deleted hundreds of texts and when asked to hand over devices, gave investigators his son’s iPad instead of his own.
The New York Times also reports that a board member at CBS was informed of an alleged assault more than a decade ago but continued to support Moonves. The report details how the former head of communications at CBS drafted a resignation letter for Moonves, which Moonves did not sign, weeks before he actually left the company.
After Moonves’ initial departure, it appeared he was still eligible for the lucrative severance package detailed in his contract. Some of his alleged misconduct occurred before he joined CBS, and other behavior might be difficult to prove.
However, the Times notes, the draft report to the board suggests Moonves violated his contractual obligation to cooperate with investigators.
“It seems very unlikely that the board would be able to to grant him those $120 million as part of his severance,” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports. “But it’s also reflective of a culture where there seemed to be no accountability, where governance itself seems to have failed at CBS.”