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McDonald's ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook says company knew of employee relationships in negotiating exit

McDonald's sues ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook
McDonald's sues ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook 03:20

Former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook is defending himself against allegations that he hid evidence and lied about having multiple sexual relationships with employees, claiming the fast-food chain was aware of the issue when it negotiated his lucrative exit package, according to Bloomberg News.

In a lawsuit filed last week, McDonald's contends it came across new information after Easterbook's ouster that shows he "concealed evidence and lied about his wrongdoing." The company is seeking to recoup compensation reportedly worth more than $40 million

McDonald's fired Easterbrook in 2019 for having what he and the company described at the time as a consensual relationship with an employee. But the burger giant's complaint accuses Easterbrook of having relationships with an additional three subordinates in the year before his termination, approving an extraordinary stock grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of them.

The company's case against Easterbrook includes dozens of naked or explicit photographs and videos of different women — including some McDonald's employees — that Easterbrook allegedly sent as attachments to his personal email account from his work account in late 2018 or early 2019.

Easterbrook argued in a filing Friday in Delaware Chancery Court that McDonald's claim against him should be thrown out, as the company knew the facts at the time his exit deal was negotiated, Bloomberg reported. 

"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 attorneys wrote, according to the news service. "Instead, it improperly seeks to manufacture claims for a breach of fiduciary duty or fraud."

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The legal fight involves a severance agreement that had Easterbrook walking away from McDonald's with stock awards worth more than $37 million and $675,000 severance and health insurance benefits, Bloomberg stated.

Easterbrook is also claiming that pacts covering stock grants related to McDonald's have to be heard in Illinois courts, where the company is headquartered, according to Bloomberg. In addition, he claims that a gag clause in his exits agreement prevents him from responding to the company's allegations in a timely manner.

"McDonald's stands by its complaint, both the factual assertions and the court in which it was filed," The company stated in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

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