McDonald’s former CEO Steve Easterbrook has responded to the company’s recent lawsuit, claiming the board knew of his sexual relationships with three other employees.

Last week, the fast-food giant announced it was suing Easterbrook amid allegations that he fraudulently hid details of additional relationships when he was dismissed last November.

The board is attempting to recover the $40 million severance package afforded to the former boss on his departure, claiming that he deliberately misled investigators at the time in revealing the details of only one employee relationship.

In court papers filed in Delaware, Easterbrook’s lawyers said that the company was “improperly attempting to get out of its bargain nine months after the fact and despite admitting it always possessed the information upon which it is now relying”.

Responding to claims that Easterbrook lied to the company and destroyed information regarding his behaviour – which allegedly included sharing nude and explicit images via his company email address and approving a stock grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of the employees he was sexually involved with – his lawyers said “McDonald’s admits that the ‘new’ information it now relies upon is not new at all — rather, since the outset of the investigation it was in the company email account stored on the company’s servers.”

“Prior to entering into the separation agreement, McDonald’s conducted a thorough investigation involving ‘independent outside counsel’, who advised McDonald’s independent directors, its board and its general counsel,” the legal team said.

“The separation agreement was therefore, and unequivocally, a well thought-out and bargained-for exchange involving sophisticated parties.”