CBS has hired two high-powered New York law firms to conduct “a full investigation” into allegations of misconduct by Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves as well as complaints about executives at CBS News, the company said Wednesday night.
Two female attorneys with strong credentials will oversee the investigation: Mary Jo White from the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm and Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling.
White previously served as chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Obama administration. Before that, she was U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. She now leads Debevoise’s Strategic Crisis Response and Solutions Group.
Kestenbaum also is a former federal prosecutor who has worked as a defense attorney.
Board members Wednesday afternoon voted unanimously to turn the investigation over to the two law firms. They also asked the firms to delve into “cultural issues at all levels of CBS,” the company said in a statement.
Separately, CBS’ board formed a three-member special committee to oversee the investigation. Board members Bruce S. Gordon, Linda Griego and Robert N. Klieger will serve on that committee.
Klieger, a Los Angeles attorney, has been an ally of controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, so his involvement ensures that both factions of the board are participating in the review.
Moonves will have “no role in the investigation and is entirely recused from it,” CBS said in the statement. No other action was taken during the board meeting “pending discussion with counsel as to appropriate next steps,” the statement said.
In addition, the CBS board said in the statement that it “takes these allegations seriously and is committed to acting in the best interest of the company and all of its shareholders.”
Additionally, Gordon — the former head of the NAACP — was elected to serve as the board’s lead independent director.
“Neither the board nor the company expects to comment further on this matter at this time,” CBS said.