NEW YORK (AP) — CBS and its former president, Leslie Moonves, will pay $30.5 million as part of a settlement with the New York attorney general’s office, which claims network executives conspired with a Los Angeles Police Captain for cover up sexual assault allegations against Moonves.
Under the agreement announced by Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday, the streaming giant is required to pay $22 million to shareholders and an additional $6 million for sexual harassment and assault programs. Moonves will have to pay $2.5 million, all of which will benefit shareholders who the attorney general says were initially kept in the dark about the allegations.
At least one of those executives — one of the few privy to an internal investigation — sold millions of dollars worth of stock before the allegations against Moonves became public, which the attorney general’s office says , amounted to insider trading.
“As a publicly traded company, CBS failed in its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors. After attempting to bury the truth to protect their fortunes, CBS and Leslie Moonves are paying today millions of dollars for their wrongdoings,” James said in a statement, calling attempts to mislead investors “reprehensible.”
A spokesperson for Paramount Global, which owns CBS, said it was “pleased to resolve this matter … without any admission of liability or wrongdoing,” adding that “the matter involves alleged misconduct by the former CEO of CBS, who was terminated for cause in 2018, and does not relate in any way to the current company.
Moonves resigned from CBS on September 9, 2018.
In a document outlining the findings of its investigation, the attorney general’s office detailed an alleged scheme by a Los Angeles police captain to try to cover up the allegations against Moonves.
The police captain, who was not named in the report, told CBS that a woman had filed a complaint against Moonves, according to the document.
He said the captain then personally met with Moonves and another CBS executive and provided them with confidential information about the investigation. The captain, he added, ordered officers investigating the complaint to “recommend” the woman not to report her allegations to the media, according to the attorney general’s office. He also put them in touch with the lead investigator.
When the allegations finally became public anyway and Moonves resigned, the captain sent a note to a CBS contact saying, “We have worked so hard to try to avoid this day.”
The document also says he wrote a separate note to Moonves saying, “I am deeply sorry this happened. I will always be with, by and I will pledge my allegiance
The attorney general’s office said it discovered text messages between the police captain, CBS executives and Moonves that showed efforts to keep the complaint from becoming public.
The captain, commander of the police department’s Hollywood division, first informed CBS officials of the sexual misconduct allegation by calling the network’s senior vice president of talent relations and special events, who was identified by the court document as Ian Metrose.
Metrose previously hired the captain as one of Moonves’ security assistants at the Grammy Awards from 2008 to 2014, the document states.
“I know we haven’t spoken in a while. I’m a captain at LAPD Hollywood,” the police captain told Metrose in a voicemail, according to the attorney general’s office. “Someone walked into the station about a few hours ago and made sexual assault allegations against your boss. It’s confidential, as you know, but give me a call, and I can give you some details. and let you know what the allegation is before it is released to the media or broadcast.
An email sent to Metrose was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
Los Angeles police said Wednesday they are investigating the now-retired captain’s conduct and are cooperating with officials in New York.
“What is most appalling is the alleged breach of trust of a victim of sexual assault, among the most vulnerable, by a member of the LAPD. It erodes public trust and does not reflect our values as organization,” said Chief Michel Moore.
Moonves’ resignation came amid complaints from several women about alleged sexual misconduct. Some accusers claimed that Moonves forced them to perform oral sex. The New Yorker reported at the time that at least one of the women, a television executive, had filed a criminal complaint with the Los Angeles police.
Moonves admitted having affairs with three of the women, but said they were consensual. He denied attacking anyone, saying in a statement at the time that “false allegations from decades ago are now being leveled against me”.
The Los Angeles County prosecutor declined to press charges against Moonves in 2018.
CBS is also required, under the agreement with the Attorney General’s office, to reform its human resources practices regarding sexual harassment.
The New York Attorney General’s Office has identified CBS Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Gil Schwartz as the executive who sold nearly $8.9 million in stock. Schwartz has since died.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles.