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I’m as pro-capitalism and American Dream as you can get. I believe in ensuring equal starts and level playing fields as a societal obligation. But I also believe that you reward talent, not merely participation. And you expect talent to conform to ethical standards and legal requirements at the very least.

Having said that, the question as to whether Les Moonves is entitled to $120 million in severance is beyond my comprehension. First, the money is hard to even imagine, even for me. Second, this man’s behavior clearly justifies termination and condemnation, not reward. (The board has decided not to pay the severance as of yesterday.)

We have a problem, even in a capitalist society, when anyone in a publicly-traded company (I’m exempting here entrepreneurs, people who have created and launched something themselves and independently) is entitled to such astronomical amounts of money. Certainly anyone in the executive ranks of GE since Jack Welch left aren’t, but nor is anyone at Microsoft or Apple.

Excellent executives may be hard to attract and retain, but you can certainly do so for less than nine figures. And I don’t think it requires a board decision or a law firm’s help or a consultant’s advice to determine that the behavior of a Weinstein or Moonves or Lauer or Rose do not justify a single cent in continued compensation. If anything, they should be paying money back.

Cosby is finally in jail, but what harm did he do to how many people while being paid millions as those who could have done something looked the other way?

Power does have a tendency to corrupt. And, apparently, those in the shadow of power seem to fail to see the light. Who on the CBS board was totally ignorant of Moonves’s actions and complaints against him?

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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