‘Transactional’ Sex and a Secret Resignation Letter: Takeaways From Report on Moonves' Conduct

Posted December 4, 2018 9:57 p.m. EST

Leslie Moonves, the former chairman and chief executive of CBS, repeatedly lied to investigators about his behavior, according to a draft report by outside lawyers hired by CBS’ board to look into sexual misconduct allegations against him.

The 21,666-word draft, dated Nov. 27, is filled with new details about the conduct of Moonves and others at the company. The lawyers spoke to Moonves four times during the investigation. A final version of the report is expected to be presented to CBS’ board next week.

Here are four new revelations in the report, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

1. Investigators heard that a CBS employee was ‘on call’ to perform oral sex

The outside lawyers were told by multiple people that CBS had an employee “who was ‘on call’ to perform oral sex” on Moonves.

According to the draft report: “A number of employees were aware of this and believed that the woman was protected from discipline or termination as a result of it.”

The report didn’t identify the employee — and the lawyers didn’t interview her — but Moonves, in one of his multiple interviews with the lawyers, “admitted to receiving oral sex from the woman, his subordinate,” although he described it as consensual.

“Mr. Moonves vehemently denies having any nonconsensual sexual relations,” Andrew J. Levander, Moonves’ lawyer, said Tuesday. “He never put or kept someone on the payroll for the purpose of sex. He has cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”

2. Moonves received oral sex that appeared ‘transactional’

The report found that, in addition to consensual relationships and affairs, “Moonves received oral sex from at least 4 CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity.”

The report said that the lawyers weren’t able to speak with any of those women, but that “such a pattern arguably constitutes willful misfeasance and violation of the company’s sexual harassment policy.”

3. A board member knew about an alleged assault

Shortly before he joined CBS’ board in 2007, Oscar-winning producer Arnold Kopelson was told about an alleged sexual assault by Moonves.

Dr. Anne Peters told the CBS lawyers that Moonves assaulted her in 1999. According to the report, she said she warned Kopelson not to join the board, citing the alleged assault. “She recalls Kopelson responding that the incident had happened a long time ago and was trivial, and said, in effect, ‘we all did that,'” according to the report.

Kopelson, who died in October, became one of Moonves’ staunchest supporters on the board. As the #MeToo movement gained momentum, Peters and a friend urged Kopelson to publicly disclose the alleged 1999 assault. The lawyers’ report found that “there is no evidence that Kopelson, whom we were unable to interview before he passed away, told anyone on the CBS Board about the incident, spoke to Moonves about it or otherwise did anything with the information.”

On the board, Kopelson continued to defend Moonves. “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff,” Kopelson said in a board meeting this summer. “Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”

Peters didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

4. A secret resignation letter was drafted for Moonves

Gil Schwartz, the longtime head of communications at CBS, had known since late 2017 about some of the sexual assaults that Moonves had been accused of committing, according to the report. Schwartz learned about the episode involving Peters in August, shortly before it became public in a Vanity Fair article. The report said that after discussing the matter with Moonves, Schwartz drafted a resignation letter for the chief executive, but Moonves didn’t sign it. Schwartz didn’t tell the board, the report said.

It wouldn’t be until the following month that Moonves stepped down from CBS. Schwartz also left the company in September.