Details of Skarzynski’s false testimony to Congress


The lie that former Arbitron CEO Michael Skarzynski is accused of telling a US House Committee on December 2nd was hardly a key component of his defense of the company’s Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings. It was so inconsequential that it was not mentioned in RBR-TVBR’s coverage – and likely not by any other news outlet either. But lying to Congress is always a big deal.

In a Wall Street conference call Tuesday, Arbitron CFO Sean Creamer explained what led to Skarzynski’s sudden resignation on Monday. “Mr. Skarzynski and the board together determined that he had violated a company policy in a matter entirely unrelated to the financial performance of the company. Specifically, after the market closed yesterday Arbitron notified Chairman [Edolphus] Towns [D-NY] and the staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the company had learned during testimony before the Committee on December 2nd, 2009 Michael Skarzynski, then Chief Executive Officer and President of Arbitron, testified that he had personally participated in a November 2009 training visit to a home of Arbitron panelists with other Arbitron personnel. This testimony was erroneous. While Arbitron personnel did participate in a home visit in November 2009, Mr. Skarzynski did not personally participate. Arbitron sincerely regrets the misstatement and has requested that the Committee correct the record in connection with the official transcript of the hearing. Honesty and integrity are cornerstones of Arbitron’s values and we take any acts inconsistent with these values very seriously. Accordingly, Michael Skarzynski submitted his resignation,” Creamer said.   

Later, in Q&A with analysts, both Creamer and new CEO Bill Kerr said there were no other issues with regard to the hearing testimony. “We certainly believe that this is it,” Creamer said.

“I would only add that the Board raised with itself the same question that you just raised and, I think with a fairly exhaustive effort, we have found nothing beyond this situation that should cause concern,” said Kerr, the Arbitron board member and former Meredith CEO who was suddenly catapulted into the role of President and CEO at Arbitron.

Creamer also insisted there was no timing correlation in the two announcements the company made Monday after the stock market closed: Skarzynski’s resignation and the denial of accreditation by the Media Rating Council (MRC) in most PPM markets, while accrediting only Minneapolis-St. Paul in addition to the two previously accredited markets, Houston and Riverside-San Bernardino.

RBR-TVBR observation: How bizarre. Why would anyone risk their job and reputation by lying to Congress about something so inconsequential? Certainly Skarzynski created a new PR nightmare for a company which already has plenty to deal with, so he certainly deserved to be kicked out. Friends of Bill Kerr might want to send him Rolaids gift packs as he takes on this new assignment.