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Former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

McDonald's on Monday sued its former CEO Steve Easterbrook, seeking to recoup tens of millions in severance benefits while alleging he took part in and concealed undisclosed relationships with company employees, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: Corporations have traditionally chosen to ignore executive misbehavior to avoid bad press, but they have become more proactive — especially with the rise of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements — in addressing issues head-on.

The state of play: Easterbrook was fired last fall after McDonald's discovered that he had taken part in a consensual relationship with an employee and violated company policy.

  • The lawsuit alleges Easterbrook had additional consensual relationships with three employees in his final year at the company, and gave company shares to one of them.
  • McDonald's claims that Easterbrook defrauded the company by covering up these additional relationships and wants to recuperate some $40 million in stock options and other compensation it let him keep after his ouster.

What they're saying: "McDonald’s does not tolerate behavior from any employee that does not reflect our values," wrote current CEO Chris Kempczinski in a company memo.

  • "As we recommit to our values, now, more than ever, is the time to lean in to what we stand for and act as a positive force for change."

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.