New York AG Secures $30 Million From CBS Over Alleged Sexual Harassment Cover-Up

Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office secured a $30.5 million payment Wednesday from CBS over the cover-up of a sexual misconduct case.

The attorney general’s office claimed that CBS executives “persistently suppressed and concealed” evidence of sexual assault allegations of at least 12 women against CBS President Leslie Moonves. One accuser filed a criminal complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) against Moonves in November 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement, according to a 37-page report released by the office.

Moonves’ job had been put on the line as the #MeToo movement gained traction following allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the document said. Several CBS executives and employees, including anchor Charlie Rose, had been terminated after sexual misconduct allegations came out against them between 2017 and 2018.

“CBS was obligated to accurately disclose and update its disclosures, in particular, in its proxy statements and other SEC filings, but instead Respondents covered it up,” the document read. “In the context of the #MeToo movement, even the public disclosure of the accusations against Moonves constituted a material fact and should have been accurately disclosed. Indeed, when news broke that Moonves had been accused of sexual misconduct on July 27, 2018, CBS’s stock dropped 10.9% from the day before the story was published to the day after.”

CBS also allegedly “misled” investors by claiming to be in the midst of learning about sexual harassment cases, though they had been working to “conceal” the allegations, the document said. (RELATED: Report: CBS Employee Was ‘On Call’ To Perform Oral Sex On CEO Leslie Moonves) 

An individual alleged that they had been sexually assaulted by Moonves in the 1980’s, before he had been at CBS, the document read. The LAPD then reportedly sent CBS executives a redacted police report, leading the team to investigate the accuser and her family. In the search, they found her name and address through a public records search, including her son’s phone number, according to the document.

The executives allegedly communicated via TigerText, a text messaging service that instantly deletes messages, the office said. An LAPD captain also allegedly secretly updated the team on the investigation and had reportedly been willing to work on Moonves’ behalf, the document further alleged.

In December 2017, a Hollywood talent manager reportedly informed Moonves that an actress was willing to report sexual misconduct accusations that allegedly occurred in his office in the mid-1990’s, the document read. The New York Times had reportedly contacted the talent manager on several occasions to get information on the allegations.

Moonves then allegedly met with the talent manager for breakfast on December 30, 2017 to convince the manager to stay quiet, the document read. Over the course of several months, the manager informed Moonves of information regarding the allegations and investigation by The New York Times.

In July, Moonves learned that The New Yorker planned to publish a story on the allegation, leading him to reportedly offer the second accuser an acting role without an audition, the document read. The New York Times and New Yorker eventually published the stories on the allegations, leading to Moonves’ resignation on September 9, 2018, according to the attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s office ruled that CBS will pay $28 million to the state, with $22 million going to CBS shareholders and $6 million for strengthening procedures for reporting and investigating complaints of sexual misconduct. Moonves will pay $2.5 million to company shareholders.

“CBS and Leslie Moonves’ attempts to silence victims, lie to the public, and mislead investors can only be described as reprehensible,” James said in a statement, according to The Hill. “As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public investors. Today’s action should send a strong message to companies across New York that profiting off injustice will not be tolerated and those who violate the law will be held accountable.”

The station is now required to reform human resources practices around sexual harassment and send biannual reports to James’ office, the outlet reported.

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