Former McDonald’s CEO Stephen Easterbrook has been charged by federal regulators for making misleading statements to investors about the circumstances of his firing in 2019. Easterbrook was fired for engaging in an inappropriate personal relationship with a McDonald’s employee in violation of the company policy. However, his separation agreement with McDonald’s stated that his termination was without cause, allowing him to keep a substantial amount of McDonald’s stock as compensation. Had the cause of his termination been documented on the separation agreement, he would have had to forfeit his stock. The SEC said Easterbrook’s separation agreement was valued at more than $40 million.
In 2020, the company launched an internal investigation and discovered that Easterbrook had engaged in other undisclosed, improper relationships with additional McDonald’s employees. Those discoveries led to the company suing him in August that year.
In late 2021, Easterbrook agreed to return $105 million in cash and stock awards to the company. Easterbrook, hasn’t admitted or denied the SEC’s findings, but has agreed to the agency’s cease-and-desist order, which imposes a five-year ban on him serving as a corporate officer or director ban and a $400,000 civil penalty.