The elephant in the room went unmentioned.
CBS Corp. CBS, +0.32% reported quarterly results Thursday amid a maelstrom of corporate drama. The media company’s board is investigating allegations that Chief Executive Leslie Moonves sexually harassed multiple women over his career. And its relationship with controlling shareholder National Amusements Inc. is the subject of a court battle.
But at the start of a conference call to discuss the earnings, a company official issued an edict that such terrain would be off limits for questioning. Over the next 48 minutes, Wall Street analysts stayed off the topic.
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 Moonves faces, and the ensuing intrigue about how the company and its board are handling the situation, no analyst asked the reason for leaving 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.
On Twitter, reporters and other observers mocked what they said was the cowardice of the analysts for failing to ask about the scandal.
— Rich Greenfield (@RichBTIG) August 2, 2018
Not a good look for the CBS analyst community, when being complicit is such a hot topic.
— Alex Sherman (@sherman4949) August 2, 2018
Are we really going to make it to the end of this CBS earnings call without a single analyst question about the allegations against the CEO? They sent the stock down 11% in two days.
— Keach Hagey (@keachhagey) August 2, 2018
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