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CBS discloses subpoenas in New York sexual harassment probe into former CEO Leslie Moonves' conduct

CBS discloses subpoenas in New York sexual harassment probe into former CEO Leslie Moonves' conduct
CBS has been subpoenaed by New York authorities investigating former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. (Chris Pizzello / Invision/Associated Press)

CBS Corp. disclosed in a regulatory filing Friday that it was subpoenaed as part of a New York district attorney’s office probe into allegations of sexual misconduct by former Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.

In the filing, CBS said it had “received subpoenas from the New York County district attorney’s office and the New York City Commission on Human Rights” regarding allegations surrounding Moonves and “related matters.”

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The New York-based company noted that it could receive “additional related regulatory and investigative inquiries from these and other entities.” CBS said it separately had received a request for information from the New York attorney general's office “about these matters.”

A company spokesman declined to comment. A representative of the New York district attorney’s office also declined to comment.

Moonves resigned Sept. 9 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct in articles published by the New Yorker magazine. Most of the alleged incidents occurred decades ago, before Moonves was a ranking executive at the legendary broadcasting company.

CBS has been embroiled in the sexual harassment controversy for the last two months. On Aug. 1, the CBS board of directors hired two high-profile lawyers in New York — Mary Jo White from the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm and Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling — to investigate claims against Moonves.

The two firms were also tasked with looking into allegations of sexual harassment at CBS News and the overall workplace culture at CBS. That review is ongoing. Earlier this month, CBS News fired the executive producer of CBS’ iconic “60 Minutes,” Jeff Fager, after he sent a threatening text message to a CBS News reporter who was reporting on the subject.

"The company is cooperating with the ongoing investigation and related inquiries," CBS said in the filing.

Moonves became the highest-profile media executive to see his career collapse from the weight of sexual harassment allegations that surfaced in the #MeToo era. Hollywood, and other industries, have been forced to account for years of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and discrimination after allegations that movie producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually abused dozens of women.

In the case of Moonves, there were fewer allegations of misconduct, but the stakes were higher because he managed a publicly traded company, which must protect the interests of shareholders.

Moonves, who served as CEO for 12 years, departed the company without a severance package. The CBS board deposited $120 million in a trust fund that could be paid to Moonves. However, if White and Kestenbaum uncover evidence that Moonves should be fired “for cause,” he will not be entitled to any severance. Moonves has denied mistreating women or harming their careers.

This is not the first time prosecutors in New York have investigated the actions of prominent network executives. Last year, federal prosecutors based in New York examined allegations of secret payoffs to cover up sexual harassment claims at Fox News Channel during the tenure of the late Roger Ailes, once the powerful Fox News chairman. The case was dropped after Ailes died in May 2017.

4:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background on the claims against Moonves.

This article was originally published at 2:50 p.m.

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