CBS Stock Drops 4 Percent as Board Weighs Les Moonves’ Future

Board will look into sexual misconduct accusations and examine workplace culture at CBS

les moonves cbs time's up
Getty Images

CBS Corporation’s stock is falling as its board of directors heads into a critical meeting on Monday, as the company prepares an investigation into CBS Les Moonves following accusations of sexual misconduct.

CBS shares fell about 4 percent in early morning trading to $51.90 a share. The company’s stock has dropped 10 percent since Friday when Moonves was accused of forcibly touching and kissing women during business meetings in Ronan Farrow’s latest New Yorker report.

At Monday’s meeting, the board is expected to select a committee to oversee an investigation into Moonves’s actions and to take a broad look at the workplace culture at the network, according to the Wall Street Journal. A person with knowledge of the CBS board’s schedule confirmed to TheWrap that there was a previously planned meeting of the board of directors set for Monday.

“I think the board realizes as a whole that this is a very, very, very serious situation. While there is an important Les piece to this, really, more important to the company as a whole is that this raises serious issues with regard to culture and harassment throughout the company,” one person familiar with the meeting told the WSJ.

CBS is set to release its second-quarter 2018 earnings on Aug. 2 after the stock market closes. Moonves would ordinarily be part of the afternoon’s accompanying conference call, which includes a Q&A period with media analysts.

It is unclear if the board will continue to support the current leadership through the investigation, which was its position on Friday. Should an interim chief be named, expect that to happen between Monday’s meeting and Thursday’s earnings.

In Farrow’s New Yorker story, six women accused Moonves of sexual harassment, with four of them accusing the CEO of forcibly touching or kissing them during business meetings, and two saying he physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All of the women, including actress and writer Illeana Douglas, told Farrow that they feared retaliation if they spoke out.

Thirty current and former employees of CBS told Farrow “that such behavior extended from Moonves to important parts of the corporation, including CBS News and ’60 Minutes,’” adding that 19 employees said former chairman of CBS News and current “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager allowed harassment within the network’s news arm.

“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,” Moonves said in a statement. “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.

Hours before the New Yorker published its exposé online, the network said it was opening an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct, though who was being investigated was not mentioned.

The accusations come amid a legal battle at the company with controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, who had been trying to convince Moonves and CBS to merge with sister company Viacom.