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CBS Board Investigation of Les Moonves Found More Instances of Harassment

December 05, 2018 - 7:24 am
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(CBS News) - Two law firms hired by the board of CBS Corp. to investigate allegations against ousted CEO Leslie Moonves found more instances of harassment and that he obstructed their investigation, according to a report by the New York Times.

The lawyers interviewed Moonves four times, according to the Times, and they characterized him as "evasive and untruthful at times and to have deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct." One example: The lawyers wanted to review text messages during the investigation, and they discovered Moonves had deleted hundreds of them and handed over his son's iPad instead of his own. 

The report says Moonves "received oral sex from at least 4 CBS 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 report finds Moonves engaged in misconduct both before and after he arrived at CBS in 1995, and apparently stopped after his marriage in 2004 to Julie Chen, host of "Big Brother" on CBS. 

Moonves was forced out of CBS on September 9 after allegations of sexual assault by 12 women were detailed in The New Yorker.

Moonves' lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, told the Times that Moonves "denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation" and "cooperated extensively and fully with investigators."

The CBS board of directors hired two law firms, Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling, to investigate the claims against Moonves as well as culture issues throughout the company.

CBS has its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday, December 11, and the Times said the law firms' 59-page report is expected to be presented to the board in advance of that. The findings will be a factor in whether Moonves receives a severance payout of $120 million. 

In a statement, the investigators said the board had not been given the report and that the investigation is ongoing.  "No findings have been reported to the Board. The Board has reached no conclusions on this matter. The investigators and the Board are committed to a thorough and fair process. No draft of the investigators' ongoing work product has been shared with the Board or the Company. Our work is still in progress and there are bound to be many facts and assessments that evolve and change as the work is completed. Anyone who may have disclosed draft information to the New York Times did so without authority and in violation of their obligations."