CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves. File Image IOL

INTERNATIONAL - Les Moonves could have his severance deal of up to $184 million (R2.7 billion) slashed after CBS said it would hold back payment until after a legal investigation into sex abuse claims from 12 women - and force him to give $20m of the total #MeToo charities.

The CEO resigned on Sunday after the publication of a New Yorker article in which six women accused him of a raft of abuses from exposing himself in his office to forcing sex. It followed an earlier article featuring six other accusers on July 27.

Moonves had already began negotiating his exit payment after the first article was published when the eye-watering forecast was reported in the press, sparking fury from women's rights groups and alleged victims.

But on Sunday evening, CBS said it would renegotiate the package after two legal firms had finished investigating the claims, suggesting the figure could be greatly reduced.

Moonves, 68, who joined CBS in 1995 and became CEO in 2006, was entitled to an estimated $184 million worth of salary payments, bonuses and stock under the terms of his contract, which was due to expire in 2021.

The eye-watering total was branded 'completely disgusting' by Jessica Pallingston, one of his accusers. 

The Time's Up organization was similarly scathing, saying: 'A man accused of rigorously reported allegations of harassment should not be rewarded with a golden parachute.' 

CBS indicated on Sunday, however, that no severance agreement has been reached.

'Moonves will not receive any severance benefits at this time (other than certain fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits); any payments to be made in the future will depend upon the results of the independent investigation and subsequent board evaluation,' the network's statement said. 

The network also said the $20 million charitable donation to charities supporting the #MeToo movement would come directly out of any final salary payment.

'The donation, which will be made immediately, has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves,' the statement said.  

Moonves said: 'For the past 24 years it has been an incredible privilege to lead CBS's renaissance and transformation into a leading global media company.

'Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am. Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS.

'I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees.'  

The CBS board of directors released a statement after Moonves stepped down that did not mention any of the allegations.

Lead Independent Director Bruce Gordon said: 'We thank Les for his 24 years of service. 

'Among his achievements, he established a strong management team, giving us great confidence as we accelerate our succession plans and provide continuity of leadership. 

'This agreement maintains an independent board that is charged with determining the best course for the future of CBS on behalf of all shareholders.' 

CBS has spent much of his tenure as the nation’s most popular broadcast network, with hits such as The Big Bang Theory and NCIS, and its success has made Moonves one of the highest-paid and most powerful executives in the business. 

-Daily Mail