CBS's chief executive Les Moonves has resigned after six more women brought forward allegations of past sexual misconduct against the veteran television executive. Previously, six other women made allegations, resulting in an investigation at CBS.
Unlike in many instances at other employers in which alleged sexual harassers were protected by so-called "golden parachutes," however, these allegations may result in Moonves losing out on a substantial severance package. According to Reuters, Moonves was expected to receive $100 million in severance. Additionally, Moonves promised to make a $20-million donation to groups supporting the #MeToo movement and gender equality in the workplace.
CBS said that the whole $120 million will be put into a trust within 30 days and will remain there pending the outcome of the internal investigation against Moonves. The Associated Press, however, said that the $20 million donation will be made right away. Either way, Moonves himself could end up with nothing if the investigation finds wrongdoing on his part.
The newer allegations involve Moonves' conduct at previous jobs. For example, one woman claims that Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on him while he was an executive at Lorimar productions in the late 1980s. When she refused further advances, she says, Moonves froze her out of the company and ruined her career. Other women report past instances of unwanted touching and sexual assault, as well.
Moonves has strenuously denied the allegations of illegality, stating that he had consensual relations with three of the women.
"I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women," he said in a statement. "In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me."
These allegations are indeed disturbing. In the past, those accused of sexual harassment and misconduct have often been given a pass because of the potential harm to their reputations and careers. Unfortunately, that has often left victims suffering not only from the effects of their experiences but also from reputational damage and even retaliation.
CBS has a chance to make a powerful statement by denying Moonves his massive severance package, if the investigation does not go in his favor. According to Reuters, the board will make a final decision before Jan. 31, with that decision subject to binding arbitration.