Speed Reads

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CBS was paying Les Moonves' legal fees this whole time

CBS officially ousted Les Moonves without a $120 million severance earlier this week — but not before covering some major bills along the way.

The network dropped its CEO in September amid sexual misconduct allegations, which he has denied. Yet for two months afterward, CBS still covered Moonves' legal and executive fees, per a termination agreement agreed to in September and obtained by The New York Times Tuesday.

Misconduct accusations against Moonves first surfaced in a bombshell New Yorker report that was followed by a wave of more allegations. Moonves said three of the instances were consensual and denied knowledge of the rest. CBS terminated Moonves in September and continued an investigation into the claims, but still covered his "executive expenses" until the investigation concluded Monday. Those expenses could include legal fees that could've "easily run up to $20 million" and perhaps even $40-50 million, law professor and Times contributor Peter Henning says.

Sure, the investigation concluded Monday that CBS had cause to terminate Moonves without granting a $120 million severance. But CBS still had to pay to defend itself along the way, "probably facing substantially more than $50 million in fees" since September, Times columnist James B. Stewart writes. Moonves countered investigators' claims that he obstructed the investigation, saying Tuesday the matter was "far from over" and suggesting he'll continue to challenge CBS in court.

With no end to the legal saga in sight, CBS will likely conclude it's "cheaper to simply settle" with Moonves instead of "essentially pay[ing] someone they fired to sue them," Henning says. Read more of this column at The New York Times.