CBS and its former president and CEO Les Moonves must pay $30.5 million to resolve an investigation finding that the network’s senior leadership tried to cover up a confidential sexual assault complaint against him, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced on Wednesday.
The attorney general’s 37-pages worth of findings also implicate some members of law enforcement in the City of Angels.
The investigation determined that CBS and several members of the network’s senior leadership were made aware of an initial allegation by a high-ranking member of the the Los Angeles Police Department who previously worked for Moonves. That LAPD captain also released the “confidential personal identifying information” of the first woman who accused Moonves of sexual assault in November 2017.
The report does not name the LAPD member but identifies him as a captain who contacted CBS Senior Vice President of Talent Relations and Special Events Ian Metrose and left the following voicemail:
Hey, Ian, it’s [LAPD Captain]. I know we haven’t talked in a while. I am a captain at LAPD Hollywood. Somebody walked in the station about a couple hours ago and made allegations against your boss regarding a sexual assault. It’s confidential, as you know, but call me, and I can give you some of the details and let you know what the allegation is before it goes to the media or gets out. So all right talk to you after a while. Bye.
“Over the next few days and months, the LAPD Captain continued to secretly provide Moonves and CBS executives with status updates on the LAPD’s investigation,” the report goes on to note. “The LAPD Captain made it clear that he was willing to intervene on Moonves’ behalf and Moonves solicited the LAPD Captain’s assistance. Moonves put the LAPD Captain in touch with Moonves’ personal attorney, and the LAPD Captain put the officers under his command in touch with Moonves (via Metrose) and Moonves’ counsel.”
Eventually, Moonves, CBS executives and the LAPD captain met in person to try and put a lid on the controversy. But in the end, additional allegations and the cultural shift of the #MeToo Movement led to Moonves’ resignation in September 2018.
“We worked so hard to try to avoid this day,” the LAPD captain texted Metrose. “I am so completely sad.”
At the same time, the report goes on, CBS executives “circulated” the first accuser’s personal information – and began sharing information about her family with each other – in an effort to investigate and beat back the allegations.
“In one text message to the [CBS] Chief Security Officer, [CBS Senior Executive Vice President] Anthony Ambrosio circulated a public records search containing the name, address, and telephone number of Complainant #1’s son,” the report says.
The address of the woman’s son, the AG’s report says, was used to find out of the neighborhood where he lived would provide any “clues” that might let CBS investigators determine the allegation was based on the family’s “need” for money – revealing that executives viewed the first claim as a potential shakedown.
While the various efforts to expose and silence the victim were being carried out by LAPD members and CBS executives, then-chief communication officer Gil Schwartz was authorized by the network to sell over 160,700 shares of CBS stock, the report notes. That sale generated over $8 millions in profit off of non-public information, including the LAPD complaint and other knowledge about Moonves’ continued employment.
Schwartz died in 2020.
CBS, which now operates as Paramount Global, agreed to settle with James’ office while neither admitting nor denying that those authorizations violated New York State securities laws. The company agreed to the hefty fines in order to settle the matter and “to avoid the time, expense, and distraction of litigation.”
In sum, CBS agreed to pay $28 million; Moonves agreed to pay $2.5 million.
“CBS and Leslie Moonves’ attempts to silence victims, lie to the public, and mislead investors can only be described as reprehensible,” James said in statement. “As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors. After trying to bury the truth to protect their fortunes, today CBS and Leslie Moonves are paying millions of dollars for their wrongdoing. Today’s action should send a strong message to companies across New York that profiting off injustice will not be tolerated and those who violate the law will be held accountable.”
LAPD said in a press release Wednesday that it “recently c[a]me to the attention” of the department that AG James’ investigation involved the “actions of a former command officer” with the Hollywood Division. The department said it has opened an internal investigation and is cooperating with both the NYAG and California Attorney General’s Office “regarding the conduct of the retired command officer as well as to identify any other member(s) of the organization that may have been involved.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement that the former captain’s “alleged breach of trust of a victim of sexual assault” is what is “most appalling.”
“This erodes the public trust and is not reflective of our values as an organization,” the statement said.
[Image via Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for Showtime]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]