Former McDonald’s boss Steve Easterbrook lied about four alleged sexual relationships with staff to dupe directors into letting him leave with share awards when he was sacked last year, the fast food behemoth has claimed.
The company made the allegations in Delaware court filings as part of its efforts to claw back at least $37m (£27.3m) in compensation paid to Watford-born Mr Easterbrook when he left the company last November.
It is the latest salvo in a bitter public battle which erupted last month when the company accused the 53-year-old of keeping nude or sexually explicit photos of women on his email - including three employees with whom he had relationships.
The former company golden boy first worked for the chain as a branch manager in 1993 and had been credited with a turnaround in its fortunes.
McDonald's said in a filing that it had dismissed Mr Easterbrook with a severance pay-out based on his claim that he had a relationship with just one employee.
The filing said: “When McDonald’s investigated, its CEO lied. Steve Easterbrook conceded having an intimate relationship with one employee, entirely by phone, but said he never had a sexual relationship with any other employee.
“That was untrue, multiple times over. And Easterbrook not only lied, but he also deleted emails and photos from his company phone to hide physical, sexual relationships with three additional employees.”
McDonald’s claims that had it known about those encounters, it would not have terminated Mr Easterbrook “without cause”, which allowed him to leave with share options. Following a tip-off it found the images on its servers after an investigation this summer.
The filing said that if independent directors had known the full extent of Mr Easterbrook's misconduct, they would not have approved the separation agreement.
Mr Easterbrook claimed in response to the lawsuit that the company had information about his relationships when it negotiated his severance package - adding that he deleted data from his business phone, but the evidence remained in the company email account stored on the firm's servers.
McDonald’s rules ban employees from dating or having a sexual relationship with anyone they manage, in order to reduce the risks of non-consensual conduct and unequal treatment of employees. Mr Easterbrook’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.