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Of Claire Atkinson
Leslie Moonves, CBS chief executive, did not respond to allegations of misconduct against him during Thursday's profit call, his first opportunity to speak publicly since the charges were made public.
"In light of ongoing disputes and other issues, and on the advice of the consultant, the purpose of today's call and any questions will be limited to the company's quarterly results," said Adam Townsend, head of investor relations at CBS, during the call. .
Moonves talked about the call but focused on the financial data of the company and its new projects during its opening statements. The analysts of the call asked questions about the financial data of the company and the future, but did not mention the accusations.
The New Yorker on Friday reported that six women, four of whom spoke on the record, have accused Moonves of sexual harassment or misconduct since the 1980s to the 2000s. Of these charges, four accused Moonves of touching or kiss forcibly, and two accuse sexual misconduct or harassment.
Moonves said in a statement to The New Yorker: "I recognize that there were decades ago when I could make some women uncomfortable making progress, they were mistakes and I regret them immensely, but I always understood and respected, and I respected on the principle – that "no" means "no" and I have never abused my position to damage or hinder anyone's career ".
On Wednesday evening, the CBS council announced that it had hired two law firms, Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton, to investigate allegations against Moonves. The CBS board of directors said it will also constitute a special committee to "help facilitate the investigation". (CBS is also collaborating with Proskauer Rose, a law firm that is investigating allegations of misconduct regarding the departure of the still "CBS This Morning" Charlie Rose.)
The company said the two lawyers in charge of the probe would be Mary Jo White, former president of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and former US prosecutor in Manhattan, who is now a partner of Debevoise & Plimpton, and Nancy Kestenbaum, ex of long-standing Chief Prosecutor in the United States Attorney's Office in Manhattan who is now a Covington & Burling partner.
"Mr. Moonves will have no role in the investigation and is completely refused by it," said CBS, adding that for the moment no further action has been taken "awaiting discussion with the consultants regarding the next appropriate steps" .
Tuna Amobi, media analyst at the independent equity research firm CRFA, said CBS would face an uncertain future without Moonves.
"His contributions have been remarkable from any objective measure and in terms of strategy, it's his vision, and he's driving the vision," said Amobi. "A lot of investors bought us. [The shares] would do a reset without him. "
The stock was trading with a "Les Moonves premium" of "10 percent to 15 percent", which means that investors are willing to pay more for the shares because Moonves is responsible, Amobi said.
Moonves is one of the most influential people in Hollywood, who manages the CBS network and the Showtime premium pay-TV service, the Simon & Schuster publishing house and the CNET technology news website.
Moonves, 68, approached the ranks of the program and ran Warner Brothers Television, which developed the successful "ER" and "Friends" programs during his tenure. Moonves is known to be very involved in all aspects of CBS management from selecting actors and producers to reading scripts. The company's top management has also worked with the executive as a close-knit team for many years.
The inquiry arrives while CBS faces a heated legal battle against its controlling shareholder, National Amusements. CBS recently voted to dilute the voting power of the National Amusements, a move that is being challenged in court.