Almost a week after The New Yorker published its explosive story in which six women accused him of sexual harassment and intimidation, CBS Corp. CEO and chairman Leslie Moonves was front and center this afternoon on the company’s quarterly earnings call.
However, he did not discuss or allude to the story by Ronan Farrow, even as the CBS board hired two law firms yesterday to investigate the issues raised within it.
As the call began, investors were cautioned that “in light of pending litigation and other matters and on the advice of counsel, the scope of today’s call and any questions will be limited to the quarterly results of the company.”
The “pending litigation” refers to the company’s legal battle with parent company National Amusements over its future.
Moonves did not mention the allegations in his prepared remarks—he touted CBS’ “very strong quarter” as the company’s second-quarter revenues jumped 6 percent year-over-year, from $3.26 billion to $3.47 billion—and analysts didn’t raise the topic during the Q&A portion of the call.
In Friday’s New Yorker story, 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 the New Yorker 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.”
There were also no comments today on the call about a new Los Angeles Times report, which claims CBS board members learned several months ago that the Los Angeles Police Department had investigated an alleged sexual assault by Moonves. Los Angeles County prosecutors previously said they had declined to file charges in the case because the alleged incidents occurred more three decades ago and were beyond the statute of limitations.
Late last night, the CBS board said it has hired two law firms—Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton—to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against Moonves. Additionally, the board has formed a special committee of members to “help facilitate the investigation.” But Moonves will “have no role” in the investigation and is “entirely recused from it.”
During Wednesday afternoon’s meeting, the board took no further action against Moonves. The board had previously met just two days earlier, announcing at the time that it would hire outside counsel for an independent investigation into the allegations against Moonves, and that it had voted to postpone the annual stockholders meeting, which had been set for Aug. 10. A new date wasn’t announced.
On Friday morning, hours before the story was published, the CBS board said it was looking into the accusations against Moonves in the story.
CBS ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross 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.”