ViacomCBS is engaged in an elaborate, sketchy effort to hide, funnel and move around money in an apparently successful attempt at avoiding paying almost four billion in taxes. That’s according to a bombshell report in Tuesday’s print New York Times. Yet CBS News journalists, who have hammered other companies for not paying taxes, skipped reporting on the story Monday night and Tuesday morning.
The Times revealed:
Dismissed by critics and devoured by fans, Transformers: Age of Extinction was the top box office film in 2014, bringing in $1.1 billion, with more than three-quarters of those dollars coming from overseas.
ViacomCBS’s Paramount Pictures, which distributed the computer-animated action-fest, saved much of that money by licensing the international rights through a complex strategy designed to avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to a study published on Tuesday by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, a nonprofit group funded in part by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since 2002, ViacomCBS and its predecessor companies, Viacom and CBS, together avoided paying $3.96 billion in U.S. corporate income tax through a system that involved subsidiaries in Barbados, the Bahamas, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain, according to the report.
Much of the $30 billion in non-U.S. royalty revenue brought in by the company’s film and TV franchises, such as SpongeBob, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, has not been subject to corporate taxes, the study determined.
CBS This Morning on Tuesday devoted 6 minutes and 55 seconds to the rock band The Black Keys, but nothing on the murky tax dodge. The Times explained how the massive corporation, populated by liberal journalists, moved around money in Europe and how one ViacomCBS exec was fired for blowing the whistle:
ViacomCBS — and its predecessor companies — created several subsidiaries in the Netherlands to hold the foreign licensing rights to TV programs and films, content largely created in the United States. The companies then used the subsidiaries as a springboard to sublicense those rights to other markets. The money from those deals all come back to the Dutch entities, where most of it is not subject to corporate tax.
One Viacom executive objected to the strategy. In 2016, she sued the company for a “retaliatory firing” after she spoke up about what she considered “an illegal tax avoidance scheme in violation of federal law.” (A few months after the suit was filed, both parties settled, and the terms were not disclosed. “We believed the claims to be without merit, and the matter has been resolved,” the company said.)
Yet back in April, CBSNews.com fretted over companies not paying their fair share after Donald Trump cut corporate rates.
CBSNews.com writer Stephen Gandel whined, “Many of those same companies had together paid billions of dollars in annual taxes prior to Trump's presidency.” Also in April, CBS, as well as ABC and NBC, censored a study saying Joe Biden’s corporate tax hikes would cost one million jobs in two years. That probably won't impact ViacomCBS, what with the company's creative accounting.
But don’t fear, it’s not like CBS This Morning journalists ignore their corporate bosses. In February, the co-hosts hyped the “awesome” new streaming service Paramount+, a division of CBS Viacom. On February 25, correspondent Vlad Duthiers robotically cheered, “One week away from the re-branded streaming platform Paramount+! It is filled with reboots of some of your favorite shows!”
Keep all of this in mind the next time the supposedly objective journalists at CBS News talk about objectivity and journalistic toughness.