US fast food chain McDonald’s has settled a lawsuit against former CEO Steve Easterbrook involving the return of equity awards and cash worth over $105 million, amid a dispute about personal relationships during his tenure.
On Thursday, McDonald’s said it had recovered severance pay worth $105 million from Easterbrook. “Today’s resolution avoids a protracted court process and moves us beyond a chapter that belongs in our past,” the chain’s chairman, Enrique Hernandez Jr, said in a message to employees seen by Reuters.
Easterbrook was fired in November 2019 after the firm found that he had been in a consensual relationship with an employee. He was offered a severance package despite the revelations.
However, a tip later alerted McDonald’s to the fact that Easterbrook had lied about the extent of his relationships with employees during an initial probe into his behavior. A further investigation found dozens of sexually explicit photos of women, including three employees, which had been forwarded from his company email to his private account.
In August 2020, nine months after a severance package was agreed to, McDonald’s sued Easterbrook, alleging that he had failed to give a complete picture of his relationships to company directors. The former boss hit back, claiming McDonald’s had information on his relationships on its computer systems when it negotiated his severance package.
In a statement provided by McDonald’s on Thursday, Easterbrook admitted that he failed to meet the standards expected of him while serving as its chief executive. “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. I apologize to my former co-workers, the Board, and the company’s franchisees and suppliers for doing so,” Easterbrook reportedly said.