Les Moonves Obstructed Investigation Into Misconduct Claims, Report Says

Because of his run of successes, Mr. Moonves became one of the industry’s highest paid and most respected executives. He has drawn an annual pay package worth $69.3 million. From 2006 to 2017, Mr. Moonves’s total compensation, including salary and stock awards, totaled more than $1 billion, according to Equilar, a research firm that gathers data on executive pay.

But his fall from Hollywood’s highest echelon was all but sealed after the board found out about his attempts to appease Ms. Phillips.

In September, shortly after The New Yorker published an article in which six women accused Mr. Moonves of misconduct, the CBS board negotiated a settlement with Mr. Moonves, including a $20 million donation to one or more organizations that support equality for women in the workplace. The company hired a consulting firm to help choose which organizations should receive the money, but Mr. Moonves also has to agree on the recipients. That amount has already been set aside and is considered a deduction from Mr. Moonves’s total settlement of $140 million.

The CBS board had already enlisted the two law firms to lead an inquiry into the claims against Mr. Moonves and the wider workplace culture at the network in August, after six women accused Mr. Moonves of misconduct in an earlier article by The New Yorker.

The board hired Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling and Mary Jo White of Debevoise & Plimpton to conduct the inquiry. Ms. White led the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Obama administration and was previously the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York. Ms. Kestenbaum was also a federal prosecutor with the same district.

Even before the misconduct allegations emerged, Mr. Moonves had been under intense pressure. He waged an audacious legal battle against CBS’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, to prevent a pending merger with its sister company Viacom, which she also controls.

Mr. Moonves is the latest high-powered entertainment figure to be ousted from his perch in the #MeToo era. The movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused by scores of women of sexual assault. Matt Lauer stepped down as the anchor of NBC’s most valuable news program, “Today,” after several women alleged sexual harassment. Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS left the airwaves after multiple women implicated him. And Fox News saw the departures of the founding executive Roger E. Ailes and its top-rated host, Bill O’Reilly. All of those men have denied any nonconsensual sexual activity.

Many of the men who have been toppled spent years determining what TV shows, movies and news programs millions of Americans watched daily. The allegations go back years — in some cases even decades. And the wave of scandals is a stark reminder of how male-dominated the entertainment and news industries remain, especially in their upper ranks.