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CBS says Les Moonves misled company about misconduct claims, won’t receive $120m severance

Les Moonves in 2017.
Les Moonves in 2017.(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/File)

NEW YORK — CBS announced Monday that former chief executive Les Moonves will not receive his $120 million severance package after an investigation determined he failed to fully cooperate with an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

A lawyer for Moonves rejected the decision as ‘‘baseless’’ but did not say whether Moonves would formally challenge it.

Moonves was ousted in September after allegations from women who said he subjected them to mistreatment including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted.

New York-based CBS Corp. said at the time of his departure that it had set aside $120 million in severance for him but warned that he would not get the money if the board concluded it had cause to terminate him.

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A statement from the board cited Moonves’s ‘‘willful and material misfeasance, violation of company policies and breach of his contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the company’s investigation.’’

The board did not provide details. Earlier this month, The New York Times said a draft report from the outside investigation found Moonves committed ‘‘multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct.’’ Citing the report, the Times said he deleted numerous text messages and was ‘‘evasive and untruthful at times.’’ The investigators have declined to comment on the details of the Times report.

Andrew Levander, an attorney for Moonves, said his client ‘‘vehemently denies any non-consensual sexual relations and cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.’’

‘‘The conclusions of the CBS board were foreordained and are without merit,’’ Levander said in a statement. ‘‘Consistent with the pattern of leaks that have permeated this ‘process,’ the press was informed of these baseless conclusions before Mr. Moonves, further damaging his name, reputation, career and legacy.’’

Three major figures at CBS have lost their jobs over misconduct allegations: Moonves, ‘‘60 Minutes’’ top executive Jeff Fager, and news anchor Charlie Rose.

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The board said the investigators ‘‘learned of past incidents of improper and unprofessional conduct, and concluded that the company’s historical policies, practices and structures have not reflected a high institutional priority on preventing harassment and retaliation.’’

But the investigation, conducted by two outside legal firms, ‘‘also concluded that harassment and retaliation are not pervasive at CBS,’’ the board said.

The board said it has ‘‘already begun to take robust steps to improve the working environment for all employees.’’