No Tough Questions

In its first earnings report since The New Yorker alleged that CEO Leslie Moonves sexually harassed women, CBS said Thursday it earned $1.12 per share on a record $3.47 billion in revenue, proving the embattled executive has not yet lost a step when it comes to delivering impressive financial results.

Satisfying Wall Street, though, is easy compared with the other challenge faced by Moonves, given the sex allegations against him have wiped out more than $1 billion in value at CBS and have weakened his leadership to the point where his decisions are subject to second-guessing, perhaps more so now than at any other time in his storied career.

Moonves began a conference call on time Thursday, but a CBS executive warned the CEO would only discuss quarterly earnings and not legal matters, so presumably he wouldn’t comment on the allegations against him. The analysts took the warning seriously, as none of the dozen or so who were afforded a question even broached the subject.

There were two questions about legalized sports betting; one on Amazon.com Inc.’s potential as an ad-sales juggernaut; many about CBS’s growing streaming ambitions.

Although CBS stock has tumbled on news of the allegations Mr. Moonves faces, and the ensuing intrigue about how the company and its board are handling the situation, no analyst asked the reason for leaving Mr. Moonves in place pending the investigation, when the board first was made aware of allegations against him, and by whom, and has the company received or uncovered any additional complaints. Instead, the analysts stuck to the script.

On Twitter, reporters and other observers mocked what they said was the cowardice of the analysts for failing to ask about the scandal. One analyst, Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research, said on Twitter, “Shame on the CBS analysts who were allowed to ask questions and failed to use the opportunity.”

 

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz