CBS and Les Moonves reach settlement with N.Y. attorney general

CBS and Leslie Moonves, the company's former CEO and president, reached a settlement Wednesday with the New York State attorney general, ending an investigation into allegations the company concealed sexual misconduct allegations against Moonves, misled investors and engaged in insider trading.

The office of Attorney General Letitia James announced the settlement worth $30.5 million. Paramount Global, now the parent company of CBS, will pay $7.25 million.  Additional amounts included in the agreement have been credited to Paramount in the settlement. According to the settlement agreement, Moonves is required to pay $2.5 million, which will go to CBS shareholders.

James' office concluded that CBS and some senior executives were aware of multiple sexual assault allegations against Moonves and "intentionally concealed those allegations from regulators, shareholders, and the public for months," according to a press release.

Les Moonves attends an event at Lincoln Center in New York City on February 1, 2017. / Credit: Andrew Toth/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Investigators obtained text messages between an unnamed Los Angeles Police Department captain, Moonves and another CBS executive allegedly showing the police captain shared confidential information related to a sexual assault complaint and "status updates on the LAPD's investigation," according to James' office.

"He assured CBS executives that he had spoken to his contacts within the LAPD and implemented controls to prevent news of the police report from leaking to the press from the LAPD," the office wrote in its press release.

The LAPD confirmed that the officer was retired commander Cory Palka, who frequently worked with Hollywood productions and even played himself in two episodes of the television show Bosch. Palka was part of Moonves' Grammy Awards security detail for years, according to the New York attorney general.

"What is most appalling is the alleged breach of trust of a victim of sexual assault, who is among the most vulnerable, by a member of the LAPD," said Chief Michel Moore. "This erodes the public trust and is not reflective of our values as an organization."

Investigators also concluded that an executive, Gil Schwartz, sold more than $8 million in CBS stock "weeks before the allegations became public." The office said the sale constituted evidence of insider trading.

"As a result, CBS and Mr. Moonves are required to pay $30.5 million, the majority of which will be returned to CBS shareholders," the office said in its press release, adding that the company "is also required to reform its HR practices around sexual harassment, including reporting and training, and provide biannual reports to OAG."

The company did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

In a statement, Paramount Global said: "We are pleased to resolve this matter concerning events from 2018 with the New York Attorney General's office, without any admission of liability or wrongdoing. The matter involved alleged misconduct by CBS's former CEO, who was terminated for cause in 2018, and does not relate in any way to the current company."

An attorney for Moonves did not reply to a request for comment.

"CBS and Leslie Moonves' attempts to silence victims, lie to the public, and mislead investors can only be described as reprehensible," said James. "As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors."

Moonves left the company in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The company subsequently hired two outside law firms to investigate the allegations against Moonves, as well as other reports of sexual harassment and an inappropriate culture throughout CBS and the CBS News division. The findings were not released to the public.

In 2021, ViacomCBS settled an arbitration claim filed by Moonves, with the company keeping the $120 million in severance that it withheld from Moonves after the company announced in December 2018 that he was fired for cause.

In addition, Moonves must obtain written approval from the New York Attorney General's Office before accepting an executive or officer position at any public company doing business in New York for the next five years.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the amount of the settlement being paid by Paramount.

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