McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired for having a “consensual” relationship with an employee, violating company policy.
Former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook is fighting a lawsuit from his previous employer.
The fast-food giant filed a lawsuit against Easterbrook on Aug. 10, accusing him of engaging in sexual relationships with three employees and conspiring to keep photographic and video evidence of those relationships secret in a willful violation of the company’s policies.
McDonald’s is seeking to force him to pay damages or to disgorge him of compensation that he retained when the company’s board fired him without cause in November.
In a recent court filing, however, Easterbrook’s lawyers said the claim that McDonald’s did not know about his relationships with multiple employees when offering him a separation agreement is false, Bloomberg reported.
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“McDonald’s – a sophisticated entity represented by numerous internal and external experts when it entered into the separation agreement – is aware it cannot credibly allege a breach of contract claim,” Easterbrook’s lawyers wrote in a filing on Friday, according to Bloomberg. “Instead, it improperly seeks to manufacture claims for a breach of fiduciary duty or fraud.”
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Easterbrook’s lawyers also want the suit, which was filed in Delaware’s Chancery Court, moved to an Illinois court, calling Delaware “the wrong forum,” Bloomberg reported. The company is incorporated in Delaware.
In a statement to USA TODAY on Sunday, McDonald’s said it “stands by its complaint, both the factual assertions and the court in which it was filed.”
McDonald’s said an internal investigation discovered “dozens of nude, partially nude or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women, including photographs of these Company employees, that Easterbrook had sent as attachments to messages from his Company e-mail account to his personal e-mail account.”
McDonald’s alleged in the lawsuit that Easterbrook had “lied to the Company and the Board and destroyed information regarding” his behavior, which allegedly occurred in 2018 and 2019.
Easterbrook also approved a stock grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of the women “shortly after their first sexual encounter and within days of their second,” the lawsuit said.
Easterbrook received total compensation of $55.1 million from 2017 through 2019, according to the company’s 2020 proxy statement.
McDonald’s new CEO, Chris Kempczinski, who was promoted to the position in November, said in an email to employees that Easterbrook’s “conduct deviated from our values in different and far more extensive ways than we were aware when he left the company last year.”
“While the Board made the right decision to swiftly remove him from the Company last November, this new information makes it clear that he lied and destroyed evidence regarding inappropriate personal behavior and should not have retained the contractual compensation he did upon his exit,” Kempczinski said, noting the company’s litigation is to “recover the compensation he retained upon his departure from McDonald’s and align his exit payout with a ‘for cause’ termination.”
Contributing: Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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