‘A disaster’

CBS higher-ups knew of CEO Leslie Moonves’ sexual misconduct and did nothing, report finds

Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS Corporation. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

An investigation by outside lawyers working for CBS has reportedly revealed damning evidence that high-ranking executives and at least one member of the company’s board knew of former CEO Leslie Moonves’ alleged sexual misconduct and abuse of women long before the accusations against him were made public. None tried to stop his behavior, the report found — if anything, those who conspired to cover up the CEO’s alleged misconduct appeared to have been rewarded by higher-ups for their loyalty.

“A culture where this behavior could have gone unchecked for so long with so much knowledge is really troubling,” said Charles M. Elson, the chair in corporate governance at the University of Delaware. “This is a disaster for CBS shareholders. There’s been no other #MeToo incident with this kind of negative impact [on a major company].”

In 1999, Dr. Anne Peters told CBS lawyers that Moonves had grabbed her, and grinded against her with his erect penis. When she pushed him away, she said, Moonves masturbated in the corner of the room and then left without even saying a word. According to the report, Peters told late CBS board member Arnold Kopelson of the incident in 2007 when he was considering joining the board. But Kopelson dismissed it — reportedly saying “we all did that” — and never disclosed his awareness of the incident even after the board was made aware of multiple other alleged incidents of sexual harassment involving the CEO. Kopelson died in October, a month after Moonves’ ouster.

Kopelson’s silence, said Epson, sent a message to other lower-ranking members of the company with knowledge of Moonves’ actions.

“This is exactly the kind of behavior that makes employees afraid to come forward because they know people in authority won’t care and they’ll get fired,” said Elson. “The people who kept quiet got rewarded. That sends a powerful message. No amount of ethics or sexual harassment training is going to change that.”

According to CBS lawyers, “a number of employees” knew that Moonves was regularly receiving oral sex from a subordinate and that they “believed that the woman was protected from discipline or termination as a result.” The report also found that multiple CBS executives had known by late 2017 of a complaint filed by a woman against Moonves with The Los Angeles Police, as well as allegations that the CEO assaulted actress Bobbie Phillips in 1995.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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