The CBS Board of Directors on Wednesday said that it had retained Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton to conduct investigations into network chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves following allegations of sexual misconduct.
The company said the board of directors “approved the retention of Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton to conduct a full investigation of the allegations in recent press reports about Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS News and cultural issues at all levels of CBS. At Covington & Burling the investigation will be led by Nancy Kestenbaum, and at Debevoise & Plimpton it will be led by Mary Jo White.”
The board also announced that it had formed a “Special Committee,” consisting of Bruce S. Gordon, Linda Griego and Robert N. Klieger, to help the investigators in their efforts. Moonves is recused from the inquiry.
In addition, the board announced that has decided to name Bruce S. Gordon Lead Independent Director of the Board of Directors.
“The Board noted that it takes these allegations seriously and is committed to acting in the best interest of the Company and all of its shareholders, and is confident that the employees of CBS will continue to perform at a high level as this process unfolds,” the network said in a statement.
The company’s investigation arrives in the wake of a July 27 story penned by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker that reported six women were accusing the CBS chief of sexual misconduct between the 1980s and the mid-2000s.
Moonves, in his own statement after the New Yorker story went live, admitted 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.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Moonves stepped down from the Anita Hill-led Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which intends to improve parity and end harassment in the entertainment industry, and was suspended from the USC School of Cinematic Arts Board pending further discussion at a board meeting.
CBS will retain Moonves as its chairman and CEO while the investigation unfolds.
The Hollywood executive, who has run the network since 2003, is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world, earning $69 million in 2017 alone, and would walk away with a golden parachute close to $210 million if he chooses to leave CBS.
Moonves introduced retransmission fees and hit TV franchises like NCIS and The Big Bang Theory, along with CBS All Access, the streaming service where the newest incarnation of Star Trek resides. His value to CBS, therefore, is difficult to underestimate.
Paul Bond contributed to this THR report.