McDonald’s former CEO Steve Easterbrook has fired back at the fast-food giant’s allegations that he lied about his habit of sexting with multiple employees, claiming that the company should have known about the issue when it handed him a fat severance package last year.
In a complaint filed last week, McDonald’s claimed Easterbrook had sexual relationships with three underlings that it hadn’t known about when it negotiated a package worth a reported $42 million over an inappropriate relationship, alleging he had “lied” and “concealed evidence” about the affairs.
The evidence includes dozens of naked or explicit photos and videos of women — some of them Easterbrook’s subordinates at McDonald’s — that he allegedly sent in attachments to his personal email account from his work email account.
In a Friday court filing, Easterbrook countered that his former employer should have been aware of the steamy emails, noting that they had remained on the company’s server despite the fact that he deleted them from his cellphone.
“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,” according to Easterbrook’s filing. “Instead, it improperly seeks to manufacture claims for a breach of fiduciary duty or fraud.”
The smutty email attachments were revealed to McDonald’s by a tipster in July, the company’s complaint says. The McDonald’s complaint also takes issue with “an extraordinary stock grant, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” for one of the employees with whom Easterbrook was romantically involved.
Easterbrook counters that the board of directors approved the stock award, and also argues that the complaint is filed in the wrong court, according to the filing. McDonald’s filed its complaint in Delaware Chancery Court but his separation agreement requires any related litigation to be filed in Illinois, according to Easterbrook’s lawyers.
“McDonald’s stands by its complaint, both the factual assertions and the court in which it was filed,” a McDonald’s spokesman said.
Easterbrook was named CEO in 2015 and was credited with turning around the company’s sagging sales, partly by introducing all-day breakfasts. Meanwhile, however, a “party culture flourished among senior managers” on Easterbrook’s watch, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
“The former CEO frequently socialized at Chicago bars and sporting events with employees, and flirted with some female employees,” according to the paper, which cited anonymous sources.
He was fired in November.
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