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Fired McDonald's CEO Easterbrook returns $105M to settle misconduct claims

A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen in Thornburg, Virginia. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
1 of 2 | A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen in Thornburg, Virginia. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- McDonald's announced Thursday that fired McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook has returned $105 million in severance to the company to settle claims of misconduct.

The approved settlement resolves the lawsuit brought "over his misconduct, lies, and efforts to impede investigation into his actions," according to the company's statement.

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Under the settlement, Easterbrook returns equity awards and cash, valued at $105 million, "which he would have forfeited had he been truthful at the time of his termination, and, as a result, been fired for cause," the statement said.

"The settlement holds Steve Easterbrook accountable for his clear misconduct, including the way in which he exploited his position as CEO," Enrique Hernandez, Jr., chairman of McDonald's board of directors, said in the statement. "The resolution avoids a protracted court process and allows us to move forward."

In August of last year, McDonald's said in a court filing Easterbrook had no legal ground to stand on to keep millions of dollars he received after he was fired the previous year when it became known he had a relationship with a subordinate.

The company had dismissed him without cause in November 2019 and paid him the severance package, but then sought to get the money back, saying he'd hidden other relationships with other employees, which it argued retroactively constituted cause.

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New information came to light in July 2020, when a probe allegedly showed that Easterbrook lied to the company and destroyed information regarding inappropriate behavior, including three alleged additional sexual relationships with employees before his firing, CNBC reported.

The evidence of the additional relationships came in the form of "dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women," including the three employees, according to the suit, CNN reported.

McDonald's said Easterbrook sent the explicit material from his company email account.

Easterbrook has apologized for his actions.

"McDonald's and its board of directors value doing the right thing and putting customers and people first," Easterbrook said in the company's statement. "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."

Easterbrook, who previously served as the company's chief brand officer, became CEO of McDonald's in 2015, replacing Don Thompson, who retired.

In November 2019, Chris Kempczinski, who joined the fast-food company in 2015 to oversee its global strategy and business development, replaced the fired Easterbrook as CEO.

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In 2019, Easterbrook's severance was valued at $42 million, but since then the stock has climbed 37% to more than $264 per share, CNBC reported.

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