Former CBS chief Leslie Moonves to pay $11,250 fine to settle L.A. ethics case

Former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves has agreed to pay an $11,250 fine to settle a Los Angeles City Ethics Commission complaint that accused him of interfering with a police investigation and inducing a government official to violate laws.

The incident dates back to November 2017 when former Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Cory Palka began working with Moonves and other CBS executives to allegedly bury an LAPD complaint made by a woman who had accused Moonves of sexual assault in the 1980s.

At the time, Moonves was known as the television industry’s most powerful executive. He had presided over CBS for more than two decades, the architect of the network’s dramatic turnaround.

Palka, who has since retired, was then head of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood station. He’d known Moonves for nearly a decade because he had been part of Moonves’ security detail for the Grammy Awards for several years.

Moonves’ illustrious career soon collapsed amid a widening sex scandal that came to light as part of the #MeToo movement. Moonves, who stepped down from CBS in September 2018, has denied harassing or assaulting women.

His unraveling began Nov. 10, 2017, when a former colleague, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, was inspired to speak out about her allegations of past dealings with Moonves. She drove to the Hollywood station to file a report against Moonves. Later that night, Palka called CBS officials and alerted them to the existence of Golden-Gottlieb’s report.

Over the next few weeks, Palka, Moonves and one of Moonves’ underlings discussed strategies to thwart Golden-Gottlieb’s report and worked to make sure it didn’t gain traction within the Police Department or the L.A. County district attorney’s office, according to records in the case, which came to light in late 2022 as part of a report by New York Atty. Gen. Leticia James.

James had accused Moonves and CBS of misleading investors about the scope of the sexual harassment uncovered at CBS — information that was damaging to the company’s stock.

The revelations sent shock waves throughout LAPD and sparked several investigations into Moonves’ and Palka’s alleged activities.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore launched an investigation into the matter in November 2022. Last fall, the Police Department said it had completed its internal investigation but declined to detail its findings, citing state laws that provide confidentiality for former officers.

A representative of Moonves declined to comment Friday night. Moonves’ attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.

The former CBS chief was accused of three violations of the city’s Government Ethics Ordinance, which governs the conduct of city employees and forbids them from misusing or disclosing confidential information acquired through their work.

Under terms of the proposed settlement, Moonves has acknowledged that he violated city laws by “aiding and abetting the disclosure and misuse of confidential information.”

He also admitted to inducing “a city official to misuse his position to attempt to create a private advantage for Moonves.”

The Ethics Commission investigators cited Moonves’ request of Palka, which was made through Moonves’ former underling Ian Metrose, to “provide information about LAPD’s investigation of the Gottlieb complaint, thereby aiding and abetting Palka in the disclosure of confidential information,” according to the settlement. The three men met in person to discuss Golden-Gottlieb’s confidential complaint and ways to blunt it.

The ethics complaint also accused Moonves of violating the city ordinance by inducing Palka “to create for Moonves the private advantages of access to confidential information from an LAPD investigation.”

Each count carried a maximum penalty of $5,000, or $15,000 for the three counts. As part of the settlement, Moonves agreed to provide a cashier’s check for $11,250 earlier this week. The Ethics Commission is scheduled to hear the matter at its meeting next week.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.