The probe into the culture of CBS Corp. sparked by allegations against former CEO Leslie Moonves is nearing a conclusion, according to the company’s acting chief executive.
“It’s frustrating that confidential information from the ongoing investigation made its way to the public before management and the board knew about it – and importantly, before we could communicate with all of you. And while we still don’t yet know the actual results, I do understand that the investigation is nearing an end,” said CBS President and Acting CEO Joseph Ianniello in a memo to CBS employees Thursday.
“We in management, as well as our board members, understand that these stories are very disconcerting. At the same time, we should all be proud that we’ve been able to maintain our focus, and continue to perform at a high level, no matter the circumstances,” he continued. “We will continue to communicate as information comes in. I know we are all anxious to put this chapter behind us. In the meantime, thank you for your commitment to this outstanding Company and know we’re all in this together.”
Ianniello makes his statement after two reports surfaced in recent days in The New York Times. Some of those reports contain information gleaned from a legal review that CBS Corp.’s board of directors ordered up in August in the wake of claims of harassment made against Moonves, who has denied claims for forcing non-consensual behavior. CBS hired Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton, two top-flight legal entities, to investigate not only allegations made against Moonves, the company’s longtime leader, and also “cultural issues at all levels of CBS.” An investigation into the culture of CBS News, which had started earlier in the year after former “CBS This Morning”co-anchor Charlie Rose left in the wake of harassment allegations, was rolled up into the larger probe.
Details were revealed this week in the Times, including allegations of Moonves’ behavior while working as an executive at CBS. A draft of the investigation reviewed by the Times found Moonves had tried to obstruct or mislead investigators. If the board finds Moonves can be fired for cause, he would forfeit a claim to a severance package that could be worth as much as $120 million.
CBS in September disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had set aside $120 million as a potential severance payment for Moonves, with another $20 million set aside to be paid to “one or more charitable organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.” That money was originally also to be part of Moonves’ exit package.
CBS Corp. is expected to hold its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday in New York. The report is said to have been prepared for board members to discuss in a private session after the public meeting.