“McDonald’s should use the money it got back from the former C.E.O. to develop a real plan to stop the rampant sexual harassment occurring from the drive-throughs to the C-suite,” the advocacy group Fight for $15 said in a statement.
In November, the release of text messages between Mr. Kempczinski and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot — in which he seemed to blame the deaths of two Black and Latino children on their parents — prompted calls for his resignation. An investment group representing union pension funds issued a shareholder proposal asking McDonald’s to conduct a third-party audit of its policies and practices around the civil rights of employees and consumers. Mr. Kempczinski has repeatedly apologized for the comments.
Dieter Waizenegger, the executive director of the SOC Investment Group, said that as a shareholder, he was pleased the compensation had been returned, but still felt the board failed to do its job.
“The board could have saved itself a lot of time and probably a lot in legal fees if they had conducted a thorough initial investigation of Easterbrook’s behavior in the first place,” said Mr. Waizenegger. “This settlement comes after two years of wrangling and airing of dirty laundry in the media.”
McDonald’s also still faces numerous shareholder lawsuits over the firing of the executive.
On Thursday, the company said that “Mr. Easterbrook would return equity awards and cash, with a current value of more than $105 million, which he would have forfeited had he been truthful at the time of his termination and, as a result, been terminated for cause.” It did not specify the proportion of cash and stock. McDonald’s shares are up more than 25 percent this year.
In his more than four years on the job, Mr. Easterbrook was credited with turning around McDonald’s and reviving its languishing stock price. As chief executive, he reduced costs, introduced touch-screen ordering and established all-day breakfast. Shares in the company roughly doubled.
The clawback of his compensation, while large, is not the biggest in corporate history, although many earlier situations involved allegations of financial or accounting fraud. In 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission recovered more than $400 million in profits made by William McGuire, the former chief executive of United Health, to settle claims related to a scheme involving the backdating of options. Later, Tyco International sued a former chief executive, Dennis Kozlowski, who had been convicted of looting the company, in an effort to collect $500 million he had received in compensation and benefits.