By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) – Paramount Global has agreed to pay $14.75 million to shareholders of the former CBS Corp in a proposed class action claiming the company’s failure to disclose sexual misconduct allegations against former CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves artificially inflated the value of its stock.
Lawyers for Paramount, Moonves and the plaintiffs filed a proposed settlement agreement in Manhattan federal court on Friday. CBS and Moonves had denied that they misled investors.
CBS merged with sister company Viacom Inc in December 2019. The merged company was called ViacomCBS until February, when it changed its name to Paramount Global.
Amid the #MeToo movement, more than a dozen women accused Moonves of harassment and intimidation, including exposing himself and pressuring women for sex. Moonves has denied wrongdoing and said the relationships were consensual.
Moonves resigned under pressure in September 2018; that December CBS said it had fired him for cause and denied a $120 million severance package, following a board review of the findings of an investigation into Moonves’ behavior and the CBS culture conducted by two law firms hired by CBS.
CBS and lawyers for Moonves did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The plaintiffs’ lawyers at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd did not immediately respond.
A group of shareholders sued in 2018. They accused CBS and Moonves of misleading investors by not initially disclosing allegations against him and making public statements in support of #MeToo.
Moonves at a 2017 industry conference, for example, called #MeToo “a watershed moment” and said, “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this … There’s a lot we didn’t know.”
In 2020, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan found that statement was the only one cited by the plaintiffs that could have misled investors, and dismissed other claims.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Additional reporting by Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Matthew Lewis)