McDonald’s former CEO Steve Easterbrook is fighting the company’s attempt to claw back his severance package.
Earlier this month, McDonald’s sued Easterbrook, whom it ousted in November after the board determined that he’d violated company policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee. In the suit, McDonald’s alleged that he had lied to internal investigators about the extent of his relationships with employees and asked that he be forced to return the money as a result. Easterbrook was promised 26 weeks of severance pay, which at the time amounted to about $42 million, according to an estimate by outside firm Equilar.
In a court filing Friday, Easterbrook’s lawyers argued that McDonald’s doesn’t have grounds to claw back the severance package.
In the company’s lawsuit against Easterbrook, it alleged that he misled the board about his relationships with employees when speaking with investigators before he left the company last year. McDonald’s lawsuit states that the company was tipped off to other relationships in July, and opened a new investigation which found proof of three sexual relationships.
The evidence for those relationships, according to the suit, came in the form of “dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women,” including photographs of the three employees. Easterbrook allegedly attached the images to emails he sent from his work to his personal account.
In the motion to dismiss, Easterbrook’s lawyers said that the revelation of the three additional relationships could not have been new to McDonald’s, and argued that McDonald’s own investigators would have discovered the evidence last year because it was on the company’s servers.
The company “filed a meritless — and misleading — lawsuit,” his lawyers wrote in the motion. They added that McDonald’s is “a sophisticated entity represented by numerous internal and external experts,” and that it “cannot credibly allege a breach of contract claim.”
The motion also said that the lawsuit should have been filed in Illinois, where Easterbrook lives and the McDonald’s headquarters are located. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware.
A McDonald’s (MCD) spokesperson said in a statement that the company “stands by its complaint, both the factual assertions and the court in which it was filed.” McDonald’s (MCD) noted that it is a Delaware corporation in its suit.