McDonald’s aired some extremely dirty corporate laundry in public Monday, accusing former Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook of fraudulently hiding details of three “physical sexual relationships” with employees when the board fired him last November over a separate relationship with a subordinate.
The bombshell documents also say Easterbrook awarded stock valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of the employees. He could be forced to repay a severance deal said to be worth some $40 million.
The allegations were made public Monday in a securities filing, and in documents lodged with Delaware’s Court of Chancery, and widely reported by outlets, including the Financial Times in London and The New York Times.
The Golden Arches, in seeking to recover Easterbrook’s vast payoff, claims that Easterbrook lied about the extent of his “inappropriate personal behavior,” and that had it known the full facts it would have terminated him for cause, meaning he would have to relinquish his stock options.
Easterbrook, who is British, was hailed as a hero of corporate America after he doubled McDonald’s market capitalization after taking over in 2015. However, he was fired in 2019 after he admitted having exchanged explicit text messages and videos with a junior colleague, but said he had never engaged in a sexual relationship with an employee.
The new lawsuit says he in fact had “physical sexual relationships” with three employees in the year before his termination, that he approved an extraordinary stock grant valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of them “in the midst of their sexual relationship,” and that he was “knowingly untruthful” with investigators, the FT reports.
The New York Times says that McDonald’s last month received an anonymous tip alleging that Easterbrook had had a sexual relationship with another employee, and that the company began a new investigation. After searching Easterbrook’s email account, the company said it found “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 email account to his personal email account.”
The company said the photographs constituted “undisputable [sic] evidence” that Easterbrook violated the company’s prohibition on having sexual relationships with subordinates and that he had lied to the investigators last fall.
Easterbrook has yet to respond publicly to the allegations.