On Thursday, McDonald’s announced former CEO Steve Easterbrook has returned $105 million in cash and stock to the company to settle a complicated termination lawsuit.
“This settlement holds Steve Easterbrook accountable for his clear misconduct, including the way in which he exploited his position as CEO,” says Enrique Hernandez Jr., chairman of McDonald’s board of directors.
Easterbrook was removed from the company in 2019 for having an inappropriate relationship with an employee. The executive came away from the company with a severance package worth more than $100 million, under the assumption that his only company violation was his “non-physical” relationship.
In July 2020, a tip-off revealed Easterbrook had other sexual relationships with employees during his tenure, which re-opened the investigation into the ex-CEO. The company subsequently found evidence of relationships with three other employees in the form of sexually explicit photographs, which Easterbrook allegedly sent from his work to his personal account. McDonald’s also discovered that Easterbrook granted hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock to one of the employees while the two were intimately involved.
Last August, McDonald’s decided to take legal action against Easterbrook. According to the lawsuit filed in November, the company would not have agreed to the terms of Easterbrook’s 2019 separation agreement “had Easterbrook not covered up the full extent of his indiscretions with lies and deceit,” and would have left Easterbrook without severance compensation.
With the former CEO giving back his severance in a settlement, it seems that this messy lawsuit has reached a conclusion.
Easterbrook apologized in the company statement, saying, “McDonald’s and its board of directors value doing the right thing and putting customers and people first. 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.”