CBS Corp.’s board hired two high-powered law firms with sterling credentials to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by former Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.
But a series of leaks is already revealing a pattern of alleged misconduct by Moonves that raises more questions about the company’s oversight of its once powerful CEO.
The New York Times reported this week that it had reviewed a draft report of the investigation’s findings, including that Moonves allegedly destroyed evidence and sought to mislead investigators in an effort to salvage his reputation and preserve his claims to $120 million in severance pay.
Moonves — once the most powerful man in television — was fired Sept. 9.
The extent of Moonves’ alleged misconduct was wider than initially thought, according to the report. The document is said to allege that Moonves “received oral sex from at least four CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper” because there was no hint of romance or a relationship.
CBS declined to comment.
Two prominent attorneys — Mary Jo White and Nancy Kestenbaum — have been investigating the situation since early August. They’ve been preparing their report with plans to submit it to CBS’ board next week, in advance of the company’s annual shareholders meeting. However, Tuesday’s leak of the 59-page draft report heightened tensions about the handling of the investigation.
It was not the first time privileged information was passed along to the New York Times. Last week, the paper reported details about Moonves’ conversations with longtime Los Angeles talent manager Marv Dauer. The paper quoted emails and text messages between Dauer and Moonves — information that was in the investigators’ possession.
At least two people close to the matter said they suspected leaks have been coming from one of the two law firms handling the probe investigation: White’s firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, or Kestenbaum’s Covington & Burling.
The investigators acknowledged that few people had access to the draft report and sought to defuse the situation.
“The investigators and the board are committed to a thorough and fair process,” a spokesman for the investigators said. “Anyone who may have disclosed draft information to the New York Times did so without authority and in violation of their obligations.”
The report appears to contain several bombshells. The investigators are said to have found Moonves to be “evasive and untruthful at times and to have deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct,” according to the draft report. The investigators have concluded that CBS board members have justification to fire Moonves for cause — denying him any severance pay.
A spokesperson for Moonves declined to comment on the draft report. He released a statement saying, “Mr. Moonves vehemently denies having any non-consensual sexual relations.”
But investigators said they heard “multiple reports” about a network employee who was “on call” to perform oral sex for Moonves when he ran CBS. The report did not specify a time period for such activity but noted that the sexual misconduct ended after Moonves’ marriage to Julie Chen in 2004.
His first marriage to Nancy Wiesenfeld ended in divorce.
In one case, previously reported by Vanity Fair, a Los Angeles physician, Dr. Anne Peters, told investigators that Moonves had tried to kiss her and masturbated in front of her during a medical consultation in 1999. Peters said she had later told film producer Arnold Kopelson about the incident, according to the draft report.
Kopelson, a CBS board member until this fall, died in October.
Last year, CBS lavished Moonves with a $70-million pay package. But within weeks after the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal made headlines, rumors began swirling about Moonves’ alleged sexual misconduct.
“No draft of the investigators’ ongoing work product has been shared with the board or the company,” the spokesman for the investigators said. “Our work is still in progress, and there are bound to be many facts and assessments that evolve and change as the work is completed.”