McDonald's settles with ex-CEO, clawing back $105 mn
New York (AFP) – McDonald's announced Thursday it had reached a settlement with former CEO Steve Easterbrook, retrieving $105 million of his severance package and securing an apology for his actions over his inappropriate sexual relationships with employees.
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Easterbrook was dismissed in November 2019 for what the fast-food chain said were his "lies and misconduct."
Forcing him to return cash and benefits makes it one of the largest clawbacks from a corporate executive, but the US company said he would have forfeited the payments if he had been truthful during the investigation into his relationships.
"This settlement holds Steve Easterbrook accountable for his clear misconduct, including the way in which he exploited his position as CEO," McDonald's Chair Enrique Hernandez, Jr., said in a statement.
"The resolution avoids a protracted court process and allows us to move forward."
The case was one of the high-profile scandals in the #MeToo that began in 2017.
McDonald's said Easterbrook lied and destroyed information regarding inappropriate personal behavior and relationships with employees, and had provided stock worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of those employees.
"I apologize to my former co-workers, the board and the company's franchisees and suppliers for doing so," Easterbrook said in a statement.
"During my tenure as CEO, I failed at times to uphold McDonald's values and fulfill certain of my responsibilities as a leader of the company," he said.
The company's lawsuit said it found "dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women, including photographs of these company employees."
It adds that Easterbrook had sent the photographs, which were allegedly taken in late 2018 and early 2019, as attachments to messages from his company email account to his personal email account.
Easterbrook was appointed CEO in March 2015, and was widely credited with boosting the burger chain's fortunes.
In 2018, his base pay was $1.3 million and his total compensation including bonus and stock options was $15.9 million.
Easterbrook's separation agreement included six months' severance pay, plus stock options.
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