Executive Insights

Bizarre details from McDonald's case alleging its ex-CEO lied about sexual relationships with staff

Business Insider US
McDonald's former CEO Steve Easterbrook, with company mascot Ronald McDonald.
  • McDonald's filed a lawsuit against ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook on Monday.
  • The fast-food chain alleges in the lawsuit that ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook engaged in sexual relationships with three employees and then attempted to cover up the relationships.
  • The filing is filled with bizarre details, such as an allegation that Easterbrook sent nude photos from his work email to his personal email and an anonymous tip that came months after Easterbrook left the company.
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McDonald's is suing its former chief executive.

In a complaint filed on Monday, McDonald's alleged that ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook engaged in sexual relationships with three employees, lied about the relationships, and attempted to destroy evidence that they occurred.

In a year filled with drama at McDonald's, Monday's filing has plenty of bizarre details. Here are four of the most shocking allegations and intricacies in the complaint.

An anonymous tip sparked the lawsuit, months after Easterbrook left the company.

Easterbrook had been forced out of McDonald's after an investigation into his relationship with an employee. The employee told an independent outside counsel that the relationship was consensual and not physical. Easterbrook said he never engaged in a sexual relationship, physical or nonphysical, with any other employee at McDonald's.

The investigation concluded that Easterbrook violated company policies and showed a lack of judgement. However, if McDonald's attempted to terminate Easterbrook "with cause," it could trigger a lawsuit. This lawsuit could make it more difficult to transfer power to a new CEO amid a court battle between Easterbrook and McDonald's. So McDonald's and Easterbrook negotiated an agreement that allowed Easterbrook to receive his severance package.

Easterbrook likely would have continued to cash in on his multimillion-dollar payout if it weren't for an anonymous report McDonald's received in July. The tip alleged that Easterbrook engaged in a sexual relationship with an employee - a different woman from the person involved in the first investigation.

The investigation into this report produced evidence of three sexual relationships between Easterbrook and McDonald's employees, Monday's filing said.

Easterbrook is accused of sending himself dozens of nudes from his company email.

Monday's filing said the investigation produced photographic evidence of Easterbrook having sexual relationships with three McDonald's employees in the year before his termination.

"That evidence consisted of 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 e-mail account to his personal e-mail account," Monday's filing said.

The photos were taken in late 2018 or early 2019.

The suit alleges the then-CEO approved an extraordinary stock grant to one of the women featured in the explicit photos.

The time stamps on the sexually explicit photos hint at financial wrongdoings, according to the filing.

The filing alleged Easterbrook approved a "special discretionary grant of restricted stock units - worth hundreds of thousands of dollars" to one of the employees "shortly after their first sexual encounter and within days of their second."

Easterbrook previously tried to delete the photos, the filing alleges.

In the October investigation, Easterbrook had been required to turn his phone over to McDonald's. At the time, investigators were unable to find evidence of any sexual relationships between Easterbrook and McDonald's employees.

"Neither these photographs, nor the e-mails to which they were attached, were present on Easterbrook's Company-issued phone when it was searched by independent outside counsel in late October 2019 because Easterbrook, with the intention of concealing their existence from the Company, had deleted them from his phone," Monday's filing said.

However, the filing said Easterbrook did not realise that deleting the photos from his phone did not remove them from the company's email account, which is stored on McDonald's servers.

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