Paramount Global will pay an additional $7.25 million to shareholders to resolve the New York Attorney General’s probe into sexual misconduct allegations involving former CBS chief Leslie Moonves, and Moonves himself will pay $2.5 million.
And the settlement also discloses a larger conspiracy surrounding the allegations, with an LAPD captain tipping off Moonves and other top executives at the company about a sexual assault allegation, and a claim that a former top CBS executive (Moonves’ communications chief Gil Schwartz) sold millions of dollars worth of shares before news of the Moonves allegations became public.
The deal was referenced among a list of other litigation updates in its Nov. 2 quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and further details were outlined in a Wednesday letter to the New York federal judge overseeing the nearly-settled securities class action. Then, Wednesday afternoon, the office of N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James issued a press release with new details, including a further $6 million payment earmarked for “strengthening mechanisms for reporting and investigating complaints of sexual harassment and assault.”
The settlement announced by James also bars Moonves from serving as an officer or director of any company that does business in New York without first securing approval from her office.
“CBS and Leslie Moonves’ attempts to silence victims, lie to the public, and mislead investors can only be described as reprehensible,” said James in the announcement. “As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors. After trying to bury the truth to protect their fortunes, today CBS and Leslie Moonves are paying millions of dollars for their wrongdoing. Today’s action should send a strong message to companies across New York that profiting off injustice will not be tolerated and those who violate the law will be held accountable.”
Earlier Wednesday, attorney Todd Cosenza wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, “While Defendants neither admit nor deny any liability or wrongdoing, Defendants will agree to provide additional monetary relief to be distributed as restitution to shareholders, consisting of $7.25 million from Defendant CBS Corporation and $2.5 million from Defendant Leslie Moonves, totaling $9.75 million.”
After Moonves was ousted in 2018, the CBS board retained two law firms to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and cultural problems within the company. A few months later, in December 2018, CBS announced it had determined there were grounds to terminate Moonves for cause.
The misconduct allegations sparked a securities class action against CBS, its executives and board members, that claimed shareholders were misled about how the company handles workplace sexual harassment complaints. That litigation settled earlier this year.
(Excerpt) Read more in: The Hollywood Reporter