CBS Board Meets, Takes No Action Against Embattled CEO Leslie Moonves

But it will hire outside counsel for an independent investigation into allegations

CBS' next quarterly earnings call, which Moonves usually conducts, will take place on Thursday. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves lives to fight another day.

The CBS board held a previously scheduled board meeting today ahead of Thursday’s quarterly earnings announcement. It said it took no further action about Moonves, who was accused by six women of sexual harassment and intimidation in Friday’s New Yorker story.

The “Board of Directors is in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation. No other action was taken on this matter at today’s board meeting,” said the board in a statement.

However, the board did vote to postpone the annual stockholders meeting, which had been set for Aug. 10. A new date wasn’t announced.

Moonves is still scheduled to participate in Thursday afternoon’s earnings call, which he traditionally leads.

In Friday’s incendiary New Yorker story by journalist Ronan Farrow, six women, including actress Illeana Douglas, accused Moonves of sexual harassment and intimidation going back several decades. Four women describe “forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine,” Farrow wrote, while the other two told them that “Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.”

Moonves responded to the allegations with the following statement, which appears in Farrow’s story: “I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected—and abided by the principle—that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career.”

Friday morning, hours before the story was even published, the CBS board announced it was looking into the accusations against Moonves in the story.

“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” the board said Friday in a statement. “The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard.”

The board had a previously scheduled meeting today, ahead of its upcoming earnings announcement on Thursday. (That earnings call, of course, is always led by Moonves.)

Ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross, a 25-year CBS sales veteran, said Friday night that she “fully” supports Moonves: “My experience with him on a professional and personal basis has never had any hint of the behavior this story refers to.”

The allegations against Moonves come as the 68-year-old is battling his parent company, National Amusements, over CBS’ future.

“The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute,” the CBS board wrote in its statement on Friday. “While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”

CBS sued National Amusements’ Sumner and Shari Redstone in May, arguing the latter should not be allowed to oust directors or change bylaws. Redstone subsequently countersued, claiming the company was not in its legal right to undermine her control.

Moonves joined CBS as president of entertainment in 1995. He was named CEO in 2003 and chairman in 2016. He is one of the country’s highest-paid CEOs, earning $69 million in 2017.

On Sunday, Chuck Lorre—who produces CBS’ top shows, including The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon and Mom—declined to address the Moonves allegations during a Sunday appearance at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.

“I do think it’s important to have a safe work environment,” Lorre said. “You certainly can’t do good work if the environment doesn’t support you and look after your best interests. That should go without saying.”

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.