Former CBS CEO Les Moonves drops legal pursuit to recoup $120 million severance package

Les Moonves, CEO, CBS
Mike Blake | Reuters

Former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who left the media company in 2018 amid sexual harassment and assault allegations, has dropped an attempt to recoup a $120 million severance award.

The money, which has been held in a grantor trust, will revert back to the company, which is now ViacomCBS after the 2019 merger with Viacom. Both CBS and Viacom are controlled by Shari Redstone, who is chairman of ViacomCBS.

“The disputes between Mr. Moonves and CBS have now been resolved, and on May 14, 2021, the parties dismissed the arbitration proceeding,” ViacomCBS said in a company filing released Friday.

Moonves had filed arbitration in Jan. 2019 for the money after the CBS board of directors determined Moonves had violated company policies, and thus was fired for cause. The CBS board determined in Dec. 2018 Moonves breached his contract and intentionally didn’t cooperate with an internal investigation.

“With regard to Mr. Moonves, we have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause, including his willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company policies and breach of his employment contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the Company’s investigation,” CBS’s board of directors said in a statement at the time. “Mr. Moonves will not receive any severance payment from the Company.”

Moonves left CBS in Sept. 2018 after a series of allegations from women, spanning several decades, describing how Moonves forced sexual acts and used his professional power as retaliation if they resisted.

Moonves was one of the highest paid CEOs in the U.S. for many years, sometimes earning more than $50 million in a year. In 2015, Forbes estimated his net worth at $700 million.