CBS Corp CEO Leslie Moonves’ senior executive team was accused in a Delaware Court filing of destroying evidence in the media company’s messy legal battle with Shari Redstone and National Amusements.
“I understand that certain employees of CBS Corp. have been using an ephemeral messaging application called ‘TigerText,'” Austin P. Berglas said in a Monday court filing. Berglas is the global head of Cyber Forensics and Incident Response at BlueVoyant, a global cybersecurity firm that advises private sector organizations on cybersecurity risks.
The next line in the filing began “I further understand that” — the remainder was crossed out in black ink.
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“In my matters during 16 years as an FBI agent, and three years in private practice, during which time I have interacted with dozens of companies both large and small, I have not personally observed a single company that employed an ephemeral messaging application such as TigerText for legitimate business communications by senior executives or in-house counsel,” Berglas stated in the Delaware filing. “In my opinion, based on information provided to me to date, CBS did not deploy the TigerText application in an acceptable business use manner.”
“Tiger Text was implemented by CBS’s Information Security Group for cybersecurity reasons following the Sony hack, and was not developed or used for any nefarious or sinister communications as some have alleged,” said the company in a statement.
Initially designed for the healthcare industry, TigerText is a self-destructing messaging app.
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The court filing comes amid a legal battle between Redstone and Moonves for control of the company.
Redstone, who oversees the privately held National Amusements Inc. that is a majority shareholder of both CBS and sister company Viacom, has urged the two companies to re-merge after splitting off from each other in 2005 in a wave of de-consolidation. The major obstacle, however, has been Moonves. Earlier this year it looked as if Moonves might play ball. He and CBS extended an offer to buy out Viacom, albeit below the company’s market value.
The two sides haggled over price and, more importantly, who would run the media giant when the 68-year-old Moonves inevitably stepped down as chairman and CEO. Moonves wanted to install his CEO COO and right-hand man. Joe Ianniello, while Redstone and Viacom fought for Viacom CEO Bob Bakish.
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Ultimately, Moonves nixed any idea of a merger and CBS filed a lawsuit against Redstone and National Amusements, arguing that they shirked their duty to shareholders by pushing for a merger with Viacom. What’s more, Moonves and CBS also laid out a plan to issue dividends that would dilute Redstone’s control of the company altogether.
Redstone, in response, moved to change the CBS bylaws to prevent the board from diluting her stake from nearly 80 percent to 17 percent. She required a 90 percent “supermajority” vote for the board to make any dividend-related move — and she ostensibly controls three seats on the board.
Over the course of the spat — currently on hold until an October court hearing — there has been speculation that Redstone might fire Moonves, and possibly even replace the entire board, which NAI has said it doesn’t plan to do. Earlier this year, Redstone even accused one current CBS director of physical assault.
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Moonves also faces an independent investigation into accusations of decades of sexual harassment that could very well lead to his ouster from the company he’s helmed for 15 years. The company’s board of directors met on Monday and decided that Moonves would remain as chairman and CEO, while the investigation is ongoing.
Deadline first reported the new legal filing.
Trey Williams and Pamela Chelin contributed to this report