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Les Moonves and Paramount to Pay $9.75 Million in State Case Tied to Sexual Misconduct

Paramount, the parent company of CBS, and the network’s former chief executive Leslie Moonves agreed to pay $9.75 million after a state investigation found that the network and its senior leadership had concealed accusations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Moonves and, in the case of one executive, engaged in insider trading related to the allegations.

Paramount said it would pay $7.25 million into a settlement fund as part of the deal. Mr. Moonves will pay $2.5 million. Separately, Paramount has agreed to pay $14.75 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit related to the claims.

Paramount confirmed in a statement that it had reached a resolution with the New York attorney general’s office without admitting wrongdoing or liability.

“The matter involved alleged misconduct by CBS’s former C.E.O., who was terminated for cause in 2018, and does not relate in any way to the current company,” the statement read.

Mr. Moonves stepped down from CBS in September 2018 after numerous women accused him of sexual misconduct in one of the highest-profile cases of the #MeToo movement. He has denied allegations of wrongdoing. A lawyer for Mr. Moonves did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The New York attorney general’s office said in a news release that its investigation had found that the company’s leadership knew about the allegations against Mr. Moonves and concealed them for months before they became public.

“As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

The attorney general’s investigation found that a captain in the Los Angeles Police Department informed a CBS employee in November 2017 that the department had received a sexual assault complaint against Mr. Moonves. The captain worked with CBS for months as the company tried to keep the complaint from being reported by the news media, the New York attorney general’s office said.

In one text message included in the attorney general’s report, the unidentified police captain told a CBS employee and Mr. Moonves’s personal lawyer that they would be the “first and only point of contact” regarding the investigation. The message also said an investigating officer would “admonish” an accuser not to speak with reporters.

In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said it had recently learned of the captain’s actions from the New York attorney general, adding that it had begun its own investigation into the retired officer’s conduct.

“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 L.A.P.D.,” the department’s chief, Michel Moore, said in a statement. “This erodes the public trust and is not reflective of our values as an organization.”

In June 2018, CBS authorized Gil Schwartz, then CBS’s chief communications officer, to sell millions of dollars’ worth of the company’s stock, according to the attorney general’s investigation. Ms. James said the action constituted insider trading because Mr. Schwartz had known about the accusations against Mr. Moonves, which could potentially sink the company’s stock price. Mr. Schwartz died in 2020.

Mr. Moonves’s departure marked a stunning reversal for an executive who was credited with turning CBS into television’s most-watched network. But he had been under intense pressure since July 2018, when The New Yorker published an article by the investigative journalist Ronan Farrow in which six women accused Mr. Moonves of sexual harassment. The magazine soon published another article by Mr. Farrow in which six more women detailed claims against Mr. Moonves.

In December 2018, the company officially said Mr. Moonves was fired, citing “willful and material misfeasance, violation of company policies and breach of his employment contract.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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