In February, the Los Angeles police dropped the matter because the statute of limitations had expired. But directors said that, had they known at any point that law enforcement officials were involved, they would have been tougher in their questioning of Mr. Moonves and would have begun an investigation sooner. And they were especially troubled that Mr. Moonves allowed the Redstone lawsuit to proceed without having mentioned the police complaint directly to them.
Pressed by directors for an explanation after the Los Angeles Times story, Mr. Moonves insisted he’d told Mr. Aiello about the matter in January. And in any event, he argued that the incident was so old that he viewed it as a “personal matter” that had no bearing on his tenure at CBS.
Worse was to come.
A few days later, as part of the company’s investigation, the newly hired lawyers asked to interview Mr. Moonves. He initially resisted, but relented after CBS warned that he was contractually obligated to cooperate fully in any investigation. If he didn’t, he could be fired for “cause” and would forfeit any severance payment.
With his own lawyers also present, Mr. Moonves discussed the Los Angeles police complaint, which he’d known about since November. And he revealed that one of his accusers was threatening to go public. He admitted that he was trying to secure the woman’s silence by finding her work at CBS, according to a director and two others familiar with what Mr. Moonves said. One person said that the woman didn’t explicitly condition her continued silence on a job, although the implication seemed clear.
Mr. Moonves told the board’s lawyers that he had informed Mr. Aiello about both matters when questioned in January. But Mr. Aiello flatly denied that to the board, and when the Weill Gotshal lawyers who had listened in on the Moonves interview reviewed their notes, they found no reference to any threats from a woman.
In a series of emails among directors in mid-August, it became clear that the board’s discussion had shifted from how to keep Mr. Moonves to how to remove him. One director, Joseph A. Califano Jr., a former cabinet secretary under President Jimmy Carter, was especially vocal, insisting that Mr. Moonves be suspended or terminated immediately for cause.
A resolution was delayed by the need to simultaneously settle the lawsuit with Ms. Redstone. There was no point in pursuing the litigation if Mr. Moonves was leaving, since the aim of the lawsuit was to defend Mr. Moonves’s turf from Ms. Redstone’s perceived encroachment.