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McDonald's Settles $105 Million Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit With Former CEO Steve Easterbook

Former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, who left the world's biggest restaurant chain in 2019, will return $105 million in severance payments.

McDonald's  (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report said Thursday that reached a settlement with former CEO Steve Easterbrook linked to his 2019 departure and allegations of sexual misconduct. 

McDonald's said Easterbrook will return cash and equity worth around $105 million to the world's biggest restaurant chain, which he received following his resignation in 2019. McDonald's, in turn. will dismiss its action against him. 

McDonald's has said Easterbrook, who stepped down in November of 2019 following revelations of an improper relationship with a fellow employee, lied to the company and destroyed information regarding "inappropriate personal behavior" during its investigation.

The company also said Easterbrook had been involved in "sexual relationships with three McDonald’s employees in the year before his termination" and approved an extraordinary stock grant, "worth hundreds of thousands of dollars", for one of those employees during their physical relationship. Easterbrook had claimed that McDonald's knew of his relationships when it negotiated his severance payments. 

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"This settlement holds Steve Easterbrook accountable for his clear misconduct, including the way in which he exploited his position as CEO,” said McDonald's chairman Enrique Hernandez. “The resolution avoids a protracted court process and allows us to move forward. It also affirms the Board’s initial judgment to pursue this case."

"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," Easterbrook said in a statement issued by McDonald's. "I apologize to my former co-workers, the Board, and the company's franchisees and suppliers for doing so." 

McDonald's shares were marked 0.5% higher in early afternoon trading Thursday to change hands at $265.+0 each, a move that would extend their six-month gain to around 13.5%.

Better-than-expected same store sales helped McDonald's blast Wall Street's third quarter earnings forecasts in October, as higher U.S. menu prices, as well as larger order sizes, boosted revenues and profits 

The group has also resumed its suspended share buyback program, pegged at around $15 billion, and boosted its quarterly dividend payment by 7% to $1.38 per share.