When CNN asked its long-time law firm to look into the activity of popular anchor Chris Cuomo, nobody predicted the investigation would lead to the ouster of the media company’s president. Then the arrival of an anonymous note alleging sexual assault led to a broader inquiry, and some major corporate house cleaning. It’s a shocking turn of events, but it highlights exactly why internal investigations are so important.
The attorneys of Dressel/Malikschmitt have conducted conduct similar investigations for similar high-profile organizations. As impartial outside counsel, we come in with no preconceptions or expectations, just a desire to get to the truth.
Zucker Gets Zapped
What is happening at CNN is still unfolding, but an in-depth article from the New York Times on the media company’s recent chaos is a must read.
As the article details, CNN asked its outside counsel to do an in-depth internal investigation of popular anchor Chris Cuomo after his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was investigated for sexual harassment and resigned from office. The brothers were close, and Chris allegedly advised Andrew as the allegations against him piled up, and pushed others in the media to take it easy on his brother.
Once the internal investigation got underway, it grew. Chris Cuomo was fired, but the investigation continued. It ultimately revealed that CNN president Jeff Zucker was engaged in a consensual but clandestine sexual relationship with one of his top employees.
The secret relationship, which went against company policy, is pointed to as the reason for Zucker’s departure, but the Timessuggests there were other factors at play—including Zucker’s friendship with Cuomo and the type of programming he pushed. (The article really is a must read.)
Internal Investigations Bring A Fresh Perspective
The CNN shakeup has been sudden and shocking, but swift action is often required in the wake of an internal investigation. By their nature, these investigations are designed to uncover unsavory actions that organizations and their leaders would like to keep quiet. What is actually unusual about the CNN investigation is that the findings are leaking out.
When Dressel/Malikschmitt is asked to conduct an internal investigation as outside counsel the report we generate does not become tabloid fodder. We report to the board, in-house counsel, or organizational leader that brings us in to have a look around.
What we are looking for depends on the situation. Like the current CNN investigators, we are often asked to look into allegations of sexual harassment, get to the bottom of employer-employee disagreements, and explore ethical gray areas.
We conduct our investigation like we would if we were opposing counsel in a lawsuit. We gather and examine evidence, interview witnesses, and try to find weak spots or holes in the information we are given. What we find goes into a confidential report.
Internal investigations are a common tactic used by organizations across New Jersey to manage risks and make well-informed management decisions. The Dressel/Malikschmitt team is proud of the work they have done as impartial outside counsel, and if you or your organization is in need of similar assistance, please reach out to us to schedule an initial consultation.