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CBS shareholder lawsuit can continue on Moonves' comments

James Leggate

A federal judge threw out most of the claims a group of shareholders brought against CBS, but declined to toss out the entire case because of comments its former CEO made that may have been misleading.

Longtime CBS executive Les Moonves “falsely implied that he was not personally at risk of a forced resignation or ouster based on accusations of sexual harassment” when he spoke about the #MeToo movement and the firing of anchor Charlie Rose over accusations of sexual misconduct during Variety magazine’s Innovate Summit in 2017, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni wrote.

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“It’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this … There’s a lot we’re learning,” Moonves said at the event. “There’s a lot we didn’t know.”

Moonves stepped down from CBS in September of 2018 amid allegations of sexual harassment alleged to have occurred between the 1980s and 2000s. The allegations were exposed by a 2018 Ronan Farrow article in The New Yorker that included six women who accused Moonves of harassment and intimidation.

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The judge found that Moonves’ statement at the event “implied that he had not known of these problems previously, even though, in truth, he was at that time actively seeking to conceal his own past sexual misconduct from CBS and the public.”

The shareholders have two weeks to amend their motion in the case and a hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 21.

CBS is now combined with Viacom following last year's merger. Longtime Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is now the CEO of the combined companies

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