CBS gives no indication it will release Moonves findings
By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
Tuesday, December 18
NEW YORK (AP) — CBS offered no indication Tuesday that it would publicly release the findings of the report that led the network to deny a $120 million exit package to Leslie Moonves, the chief executive who was dismissed for sexual misconduct.
Moonves, once the most powerful executive in the television industry, lost the payout Monday when the CBS board of directors concluded that there were grounds to fire him because of violations of network policy and his “willful failure” to cooperate with the investigation.
The board cited a just-concluded report by outside investigators, but the network is not spelling out the details.
Moonves, who built CBS into the nation’s most popular network, was ousted in September after several women accused him of sexual misconduct and retaliation if they resisted his advances. He has characterized his relationships as consensual and denied attempts to stonewall investigators.
The board was verbally briefed on the investigation. Portions of the report’s findings were leaked to The New York Times earlier this month. The network would not comment on the issue Tuesday.
Keeping such employment details private is standard business practice at most corporations, said Jennifer Drobac, an Indiana University professor and expert in employment law. But Moonves’ prominence, and the damage that his behavior may have done to the business, make it important to come clean in this instance, she said.
CBS may be concerned about provoking litigation, but it shouldn’t be a worry if the truth is on the network’s side, she said.
“It’s better for CBS to put it out there and own the problem, explain why it is no longer a problem and demonstrate how they took it seriously, so they can instill greater confidence in the new management,” Drobac said.
Lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents four of the women interviewed by investigators, also said the report should be made public. However, the names of the alleged victims and what they specifically accuse Moonves of doing should be left out unless those women specifically give their permission, she said.
Several months after “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer was fired for sexual misconduct, NBC publicly released the findings of its investigation, without identifying the people involved.
NBC was criticized for keeping the investigation in-house instead of turning to outside lawyers. An earlier internal report on false statements made on “NBC Nightly News” by former anchor Brian Williams was kept under wraps.
One expert in crisis communications argued that it was better for CBS not to release its complete findings on Moonves.
“You release the conclusion,” said Richard Levick, chairman and chief executive of Levick International. “You do not release the report.”
He said it would send the wrong signal for people who spoke to investigators with the expectation of anonymity if details they provided were made public.
“It’s not only about the accused in situations like this but the accusers who wish to preserve their identity,” Levick said.
CBS hired lawyers Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney, and Nancy Kestenbaum to conduct the inquiry. Investigators were also looking into conduct at “60 Minutes,” where former Executive Producer Jeff Fager was recently fired for a threatening note sent to another CBS reporter looking into accusations that he had acted inappropriately at some parties and protected bad behavior by others.
The Times said earlier this month that it had reviewed a copy of the report and outlined several specific accusations, including that Moonves had a CBS employee “on call” to perform oral sex. Moonves told investigators it was consensual, the report said.
Investigators said they found Moonves had “deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct,” the newspaper quoted the report as saying.
Indiana’s Drobac said that the leak is another argument in favor of releasing the full report publicly, since the nature of how the information came out lends doubt to both the conclusions and Moonves’ response.
The network revamped its board of directors following Moonves’ ouster and last week said that it was donating to women’s advocacy groups $20 million that had been set aside for Moonves’ severance.
Despite the apparent decision to keep the report private, the board did offer some insight into its findings. CBS said Monday that investigators had concluded that harassment and retaliation are not pervasive at CBS, but that the company had not placed a high priority on preventing such behavior. Investigators found other instances where top people in the company had not been held accountable for their behavior.
The network said it had recently appointed a new “chief people officer” responsible for improving the workplace environment.
CBS was lucky disgraced CEO Les Moonves behaved so shamelessly – otherwise his contract would have protected him
December 19, 2018
Elizabeth C. Tippett
Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Oregon
Elizabeth C. Tippett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Oregon provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Corporate America is notorious for letting disgraced CEOs walk away with millions.
Yet somehow Les Moonves, who was fired from CBS “for cause” on Dec. 17 after a months long investigation into his alleged misdeeds, lost US$120 million in promised severance benefits – and that’s despite the fact that his contract terms with the network were exceptionally generous.
In other words, the company was incredibly lucky Moonves’ behavior and his efforts to cover it up were so egregious. Otherwise Moonves – like so many of his fallen peers – would have walked away with a windfall.
So why does corporate America make it so easy for favored CEOs to leave under a cloud of disgrace with millions in their pocket? As a former employment lawyer, I blame the “cause” clause.
The CBS board of directors’ decision to deny Moonves his severance followed an investigation by two high-profile law firms, which apparently included interviews with “as many as 300 people” and a 100-question voluntary survey about the workplace culture at CBS.
The board’s decision was not exactly a surprise given the regular drip of press reports about Moonves’ blurred judgment and blundered cover-up.
But the mountain of evidence against him also obscured a different problem. Moonves had a contract that meant anything short of monstrous and clumsy behavior would have enabled him to slink away with a $120 million exit package.
Specifically, Moonves’ contract – excerpted in the company’s public filings – entitled him to keep the severance unless he was terminated for “cause.” But “cause” was defined in a way that permitted all sorts of bad acts.
For example, while “cause” did include “conviction of a felony,” a mere indictment for a serious crime or conviction of a misdemeanor would not have been enough.
“Cause” also referenced violations of company policy – including the harassment policy. But those violations would have had to produce a “material adverse effect” on the company to qualify. That’s business speak for something like a glaring drop in value for the $17 billion company.
How CBS got so lucky
When CBS entered into a contract with Moonves, it basically gave away the store.
They did that willingly because Moonves was seen as a golden boy in television programming, so much so that CBS apparently could not imagine ever firing him. So CBS entered into a contract that made it incredibly difficult to get rid of him without paying $120 million in severance.
But it lucked out. Moonves tripped the “cause” definition again and again.
In this case, the board was able to connect a hit to the company’s stock to the Moonves revelations. Had the reports been less public, or Moonves less famous, it would have been a much harder case to make.
Moonves’ inept cover-up was another gift to the CBS board. That’s because the “cause” definition would be also triggered by Moonves’ “willful failure to cooperate fully with a … company internal investigation” or “intentional failure to preserve documents … relevant to any such investigation.”
Moonves repeatedly shot himself in the foot. First, when he deleted text messages. Then when he tried to pass off his son’s iPad as his own. And again when he offered an 11th-hour payoff to a sexual assault victim.
Put another way, under the terms of the contract, the cover-up was worse than the crime.
No more exceptions
As with other near misses, however, the takeaway from the Moonves’ story should not be that corporate America has finally gotten its act together on this #MeToo stuff.
Instead, as I argued in a recent law review article, corporate boards need to be a lot more careful – and fair – in the way they define “cause” in their executive employment agreements.
Contracts like Moonves’ reference company policies that apply to all workers but may also include loopholes that give executives extra chances or require policy violations to be “willful” or “material.” That allows them to keep their severance on their way out the door, while regular employees are held to a higher standard.
Although there are signs this is changing, boards need to draw a hard line. After all, it is corporate leaders that set the rules. Every executive should be ready and willing to abide by those same rules in their contracts.
And if an executive crosses the line, the golden parachute should disappear.
In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ an ode to the gas lamp
December 18, 2018
Associate Professor of History and Science in Society, Wesleyan University
Jennifer Tucker does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Wesleyan University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
“Mary Poppins Returns” transports audiences back to 1930s London.
The beloved nanny at the center of the original 1964 hit film will return, this time played by Emily Blunt.
But Mary’s original companion, Bert, a chimney sweep played by Dick Van Dyke, has been replaced by Jack, a lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Some fans of the original might be disappointed to see Bert cede screen time to Jack. But as a historian of Victorian science, I was delighted to see a bygone industrial technology – the gas lamp – take center stage.
First installed in the 18th century, the earliest public street lamps used fish oil and wicks.
The reflector lamp, invented in Paris in 1760, became a popular update to existing oil lamps. Using several wicks and silver-plated copper reflectors, these lamps could cast light down and sideways, strengthening the glow.
These lamps were hailed as artificial suns – a new technology that could turn night into day.
But it still wasn’t good enough. Compared to today’s lighting, they barely emitted a flicker. “Standing directly underneath one,” a contemporary griped, “one might as well be in the dark.”
As the historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch explains in his book “Disenchanted Night,” gas ushered in a new era of street lighting technology. The first gas pipes were made from the barrels of old musket guns, and the lamp casings were coated in lime-oxide, which glow white-hot in a gas flame.
The result was a lamp that burned much brighter than its predecessors.
London’s Monthly Magazine reported: “One branch of the lamps illuminated with gas affords a greater intensity of light than 20 common lamps lighted with oil. The light is beautifully white and brilliant.”
The Victorian periodical The Westminster Review wrote that the introduction of gas lamps would do more to eliminate immorality and criminality on the streets than any number of church sermons.
The first gas lighting systems were installed in 1802 in a foundry in Birmingham, England’s 18th-century version of America’s Silicon Valley. As part of King George III’s birthday celebration, London’s Pall Mall became the first place lit by a gaslight in 1807.
Over the following decades, thousands of gas lamps went up across London and in cities around the world.
The professional lamplighter
More lamps, however, created a need for more labor. Every evening, each lamp needed to be manually sparked; each morning, the flame needed to be manually quenched.
Teams of lamplighters would meander through the city streets, using long poles to spark the gas. Gas lamps could be temperamental, so lamplighters also needed to clean and mend the lantern glass, which could crack and attracted dust and soot.
The lamplighter soon entered popular culture. Charles Dickens’ first comedy, “The Lamplighter,” debuted in 1838.
The Scottish writer R.L. Stevenson popularized the Scottish term for lamplighters – “leerie” – in his 1885 poem, “The Lamplighter”:
My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see the Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.
In 19th-century England, lamplighters had a far better reputation than “Dusty Bobs,” the term used for chimney sweeps like Bert.
Chimney sweeping was a desperately poor trade. Because the job often involved children clambering up and down sooty chimneys, Victorian labor reformers viewed it with horror.
Lamplighters, in contrast, were paid better and were praised for their work illuminating darkened streets and allowing people to feel safer.
The romance of the gas lamp
By the 1870s, gas lamps were being forced to compete with a newer form of street lighting: electricity. The electrical arc lamp first lit streets in London in 1878; more than 4,000 were in use by 1881. The United States quickly adopted arc lighting, and by 1890 over 130,000 were in operation.
It took decades, however, for electricity to finally usurp gas in most British cities. Electricity was expensive, and many city dwellers thought the light emitted was too bright.
In response to the challenge of electricity, inventors such as the engineer William Sugg pushed for improvements to the gas lamps to increase their reliability and power. In 1881, Robert Louis Stevenson published an essay titled “A Plea For Gas Lamps,” in which he lamented the “ugly blinding glare” of electric light.
The British Commercial Gas Association produced a book, “Daylight by Night,” which used photographs and watercolor illustrations to show the magical quality of a city at nightfall lit by gas.
Sugg, Stevenson, the gas companies and others were able to temporarily delay the march of electricity: Historical journals such as Municipal Engineering indicate that into the 1930s, there were still over 100,000 gas lamps in London, ranging from the powerful lamps in the main thoroughfares to small low-pressure lamps in the outlying suburbs.
Around 1,500 gas lamps remain in London, the majority of which are in world-famous London streets such as Whitehall and Regent Street, near Kensington and Buckingham Palace. These lamps have withstood electricity, the Blitz and urban renewal, and their survival is a testament to the care of generations of lamplighters, as well as the adoration of a nostalgic public.
Meanwhile, the bicycle-riding lamplighter carrying his pole and ladder has become an iconic symbol of Ye Olde England, along with hansom cabs, Big Ben and the bells of St. Paul’s. “Mary Poppins Returns” production designer John Myhre has worked all of these symbols into the film to give it the distinct feel of 1930s London, although the lamps featured in the film more closely mimic those of the 1880s.
Today, a team of specialists light and maintain the gas lamps that remain in London.
No longer do they go from lamp to lamp by bicycle. Instead, they zip around the city on motorized scooters.
What is ‘green’ dry cleaning? A toxics expert explains
December 19, 2018
Business & Industry Program Manager, Toxics Use Reduction Institute, University of Massachusetts Lowell
TURI work with dry cleaners has been supported by EPA Region 1 Pollution Prevention grant monies in the past.
University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The winter holidays are a busy time for many businesses, including retail stores, grocers, liquor stores – and dry cleaners. People pull out special-occasion clothes made of silk, satin or other fabrics that don’t launder well in soap and water. Then there are all those specialty items, from stained tablecloths to ugly holiday sweaters.
Few consumers know much about what happens to their goods once they hand them across the dry cleaner’s counter. In fact, dry cleaning isn’t dry at all. Most facilities soak items in a chemical called perchloroethylene, or perc for short.
Exposure to perc is associated with a variety of adverse human health effects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, has designated perc as a probable human carcinogen. The most direct risk is to dry-cleaning workers, who may inhale perc vapors or spill it on their skin while handling clothes or cleaning equipment.
At the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell, we work with small businesses and industries to find ways they can reduce the use of toxic materials and find more benign substitutes. For over a decade the Toxics Use Reduction Institute has worked with dry cleaners to help them move to a safer process called professional wet cleaning, which uses water and biodegradeable detergents. This is a clear trend nationwide: In a 2014 industry survey, 80 percent of respondents said they used professional wet cleaning for at least 20 percent of their plant’s volume.
Perc’s long history
Perc has been the standard dry cleaning solvent for over 50 years because it is effective, easy to use and relatively inexpensive. But improper use, storage and disposal of perc have resulted in widespread soil and groundwater contamination at dry cleaning sites. Studies show that long-term exposure can harm the liver, kidneys, central nervous system and reproductive system and may harm unborn children.
According to a widely cited estimate from federal agencies, there are about 36,000 professional garment care facilities in the United States, and about 85 percent of them use perc as their main cleaning solvent. Industry surveys in 2009 and 2012 indicate that that figure has fallen to between 50 and 70 percent.
EPA has identified perc as a high priority chemical. Under amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act adopted in 2016, the agency has a mandate to study the health and environmental effects of perc and other priority chemicals, and potentially take action to reduce risk from exposure to them. However, in June 2018, EPA announced it was adopting a new approach to chemical risk screening that could exclude consideration of many sources of exposure, including exposure to perc contamination in drinking water.
It could be a regrettable substitution for dry cleaners to switch to other solvents if those substances also pose potential or unknown health and environmental risks. Accordingly, in 2012 the Toxics Use Reduction Institute evaluated a half-dozen alternative solvents, along with professional wet cleaning.
Overall, we found that the alternative solvents exhibited less persistence in the environment, potential to accumulate in the human body or the environment, or toxicity to aquatic life than perc. Most also appeared to be safer overall to human health. However, toxicological data were lacking for some of them, so future analyses may find that they are less benign than currently thought.
Some of these alternatives are combustible, so using them would require cleaners to buy specialized equipment to protect against fires or explosions. On the other hand, professional wet cleaning is water-based and poses no such risks. It uses computer-controlled washers and dryers, along with biodegradable detergents and specialized finishing equipment, to process delicate garments that would otherwise be dry cleaned.
We suggest that dry cleaners who want a safer alternative to perc should consider the key environmental and human health criteria, and then think about financial and technical issues at their own facilities to find the best alternative for them. Anecdotal information in Massachusetts indicates that cleaners are switching to petroleum-based alternatives such as DF2000™ at a higher rate than wet cleaning, and to other solvent alternatives at about the same rate as wet cleaning. Some operators doubt that a wet cleaning process can clean as well as solvent cleaning, but the Toxics Use Reduction Institute is working to dispel that myth through case study analysis, grants, demonstrations and training events.
Making the switch
When the Toxics Use Reduction Institute began working with dry cleaners on this issue in 2008, to our knowledge there were no dedicated wet cleaners operating in Massachusetts. Today the state has over 20 dedicated wet cleaners. Other cleaners seeking options for moving away from perc can obtain data from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute and other researchers to help them make informed decisions about equipment purchasing and staff training.
At the Toxics Use Reduction Institute we also work with many other sectors to help steer them away from harmful chemicals and towards safer alternatives. Examples include removing flame retardants from foam pit cubes at gymnastics training facilities; helping companies develop cleaning products without harsh solvents and acids; and researching and reformulating alternatives to methylene chloride for paint stripping.
In each case, the goal is to identify safer alternatives and then find champions of change who are willing to make the switch and show their peers how to get good results without using harmful chemicals. This model has shown that industry and consumer choices can push change from the bottom up.