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At a particularly tense moment at CBS, the company must now answer for the destruction of messages by senior executives. According to an emergency discovery motion filed by Shari Redstone’s National Amusements, CBS has admitted the spoilage of certain evidence in the ongoing battle over control of the broadcast giant.
NAI’s filing in Delaware Chancery Court is dated July 23, a few days before The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow published a bombshell story detailing sexual misconduct allegations against CBS chief Les Moonves. It also is heavily redacted, without any public mention of any particular piece evidence. At one point, the filing notes that data has been collected for devices belonging to Moonves and COO Joe Ianiello.
Redstone’s camp is sounding the alarm about CBS’ “admitted” use of a self-destructing messaging system and demanding the impounding of electronic devices. NAI, which is attempting to fend off the dilution of its voting authority in CBS, also seeks an order preventing executives from any further spoilation of potentially relevant evidence.
“The NAI Parties have been irreparably injured by the systematic deletion of highly relevant documents by key CBS senior executives over a two-year period and face the imminent threat of additional harm unless the expedited relief is granted,” states the motion.
According to NAI’s filing, CBS senior management as well as its legal department have been using an application called TigerText for official company business. The software, which deletes messages after a set time, is said to be marketed to doctors and nurses who wish to communicate in a manner compliant with health privacy laws.
A CBS spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter that the company indeed uses a disappearing messaging app, but defends it. According to the company, “Tiger Text was implemented by CBS’ Information Security Group for cybersecurity reasons following the Sony hack, and was not developed or used for any nefarious or sinister communications as some have alleged.”
NAI says it only became aware of the use of TigerText on July 18. Redstone’s company is expressing doubt that the system was truly used for security purposes.
Austin Berglas, a cybersecurity consultant who formerly was a special agent at the FBI overseeing national security and cyber investigations in the New York office, submits a declaration in support of NAI’s discovery motion. He says he is not aware of any major public company that has used TigerText or anything analogous as CBS has.
“In my opinion, based on information provided to me to date, CBS did not deploy the TigerText application in an acceptable business use manner that would result in an enhancement to its overall cybersecurity protection,” he states. “Based on publicly available information, TigerText is not an endpoint-to-endpoint encrypted messaging system. Instead, TigerText sends its messages through a third-party server hosted by the company now known as TigerConnect.”
This isn’t the first time that CBS has incurred trouble for not sufficiently preserving potential evidence.
For instance, in a since-settled discrimination lawsuit by former CBS Evening News associate director Erin Gee, the network was faulted for allowing relevant emails to disappear. A judge in that case faulted CBS for “unfathomable” and “shocking” conduct.
CBS hasn’t provided immediate comment about NAI’s latest filing.
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