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Friday, December 2, 2022

The State of California Orders Les Moonves and Paramount to Pay $9.75 Million for Sexual Misconduct Related to State Employees

When a state investigation revealed that CBS and its senior leadership had covered up allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Moonves and, in the case of one executive, engaged in insider trading related to the allegations, CBS’s parent company, Paramount, and Mr. Moonves agreed to pay $9.75 million to settle the claims.

As part of the agreement, Paramount stated that it will contribute $7.25 million to a settlement fund. The amount Mr. Moonves will pay is $2.5 million. Paramount has also settled a shareholder lawsuit over the accusations, for $14.75 million.

In a statement, Paramount acknowledged that it had settled with the New York Attorney General’s Office. The studio made no admissions of wrongdoing or culpability in the process.

As one of the most publicised incidents of the #MeToo movement, Mr. Moonves resigned from CBS in September 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women. He has repeatedly denied any misconduct. Mr. Moonves’ attorney did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The office of the New York attorney general stated in a press statement that its investigation had determined that the company’s leadership knew about the claims against Mr. Moonves and hid them for months before they became public.

The investigation conducted by the attorney general revealed that in November 2017, a captain with the Los Angeles Police Department alerted a CBS employee that the LAPD had received a sexual assault allegation against Mr. Moonves. The New York attorney general’s office claims that the captain cooperated with CBS for months as the network attempted to suppress media coverage of the complaint.

According to the attorney general’s report, an unnamed police captain texted a CBS staffer and Mr. Moonves’ personal lawyer that they would be the “first and only point of contact” for the inquiry. An investigating officer might “admonish” a complainant in the message to avoid commenting to the media.

After receiving word of the captain’s activities from the New York attorney general, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying it had initiated its own inquiry into the retired officer’s behaviour.

According to the inquiry by the attorney general, in June of 2018, CBS allowed its former chief communications officer Gil Schwartz to sell millions of dollars’ worth of CBS shares with the company’s approval. Ms. James claimed that Mr. Schwartz’s actions amounted to insider trading since he was aware that the allegations against Mr. Moonves may cause a decline in the stock price of the firm. In 2020, Mr. Schwartz passed away.

Mr. Moonves’s resignation was a surprising about-face for a CEO who helped propel CBS to the top spot among television networks. Since a story by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow detailing six women’s allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Moonves was published in The New Yorker in July 2018, Mr. Moonves had been under enormous pressure. A subsequent piece by Mr. Farrow in the magazine highlighted allegations against Mr. Moonves by six other women.

After Mr. Moonves was found guilty of “willful and substantial misfeasance,” “violation of company regulations,” and “breach of his employment contract,” in December 2018, the business announced his dismissal.

David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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