Could fallen CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves still walk away with a $120 million payout, despite the dozen allegations of sexual violence and abuse which have been leveled against him? It’s possible. Yesterday, CBS said it would be donating $20 million to #MeToo charities, taking that money out of the $140 million Moonves was contractually obligated to receive had he left the company under less controversial circumstances. But in a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, CBS says the remaining $120 million of Moonves’s exit payout will be put in a trust fund and held in reserve until it determines “whether the company has grounds to terminate the employment of Mr. Moonves for cause under his employment agreement.” Translation: CBS is waiting for the results of two pending independent investigations into Moonves’s activities and the culture inside the company before formally triggering the termination clause in his deal.
If the CBS board opts to terminate Moonves, the former exec conceivably walks away with no extra money. However, even if he’s retroactively fired for cause, Moonves could still fight back and seek binding arbitration to force CBS to pay him all or some of the remaining $120 million. Considering Moonves has strongly denied the most serious of the charges against him, such a scenario isn’t completely far-fetched, despite the enormous public backlash it would no doubt prompt. For now, while Moonves is no longer a CBS employee, the SEC filing says Moonves is still technically serving as an adviser to CBS “in order to provide a smooth transition” for interim CEO Joe Ianniello. The filing says nothing about Moonves being paid for this role, but does say CBS will provide both an office for Moonves and “security services” for up to two years. Whatever happens, the SEC filing says CBS has to decide some course of action regarding the $120 million by January 31 or within 30 days of the final report of the investigation into Moonves, whichever comes first.