CBS investors ignore Moonves-sized elephant in room at meeting

Published on .

Leslie Moonves in 2015
Leslie Moonves in 2015 Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

CBS Corp. executives at the company's annual meeting in New York faced no questions about the investigation into charges of sexual harassment by former Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves.

The media giant held the meeting at a tense moment. Lawyers are probing whether Moonves deserves any of his $120 million severance, and women's-rights activists threatened to protest on Tuesday morning outside of the site of the gathering, the Museum of Modern Art.

The scene inside was quiet. One shareholder asked about progress in renewing a deal with "Judge Judy" star Judy Sheindlin. Another said CBS owed him money from when he was a foreign correspondent for the network many years ago. Still another asked when the CBS broadcast network was going to have another hit, because ratings are down.

One investor, perhaps edging closer to the controversy, expressed hope that the new board will "do the right thing and govern CBS the right way and not let us get into trouble as we have in the past."

Moonves Denials

Moonves stepped down in September following claims by a dozen women that he pressed them for sexual favors while serving as one of the highest paid and powerful people in the entertainment industry. He has denied coercing or forcing himself on anyone.

Two law firms have been investigating Moonves on behalf of the company for five months, interviewing hundreds of people. A draft of their report, obtained by the New York Times, found a pattern of abuse including oral sex from at least four employees "under circumstances that sound transactional and improper." The report also concluded that Moonves tried to stymie the investigation by offering at least one accuser a job in return for her silence.

Interim CEO Joe Ianniello, who previously served as chief operating officer under Moonves, sent an email to employees last week saying the investigation was nearing an end. The company has hired an executive recruiting firm to find a replacement for Moonves.

CBS delayed its annual meeting twice this year as Moonves and the Redstone family, which controls 80 percent of the voting shares in both the company and Viacom Inc., pressed for a merger of the two businesses. The Redstones dropped their immediate plans to pursue a merger when Moonves stepped down.

Interim Chairman Strauss Zelnick sat on stage next to Ianniello and Lawrence Tu, the chief legal officer. Zelnick said the search for a permanent CEO was "progressing," but he had no update to offer. All 11 board members who were nominated were elected.

--Bloomberg News

Most Popular
In this article: