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Arbitron Says Skarzynski Gave ‘Erroneous’ Testimony

His anecdote about helping a PPM panel member is blamed

Michael Skarzynski told congressional lawmakers something that wasn’t true; and that’s why he’s no longer head of Arbitron, according to the ratings company.

During a conference call with investors today (Tuesday), Arbitron shed more light on the sudden resignation Monday of its president and CEO, saying the company itself brought the issue to the attention of Congress.

After stock markets closed Monday, Arbitron informed Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of the misstatement. During the Dec. 2 hearing about the Portable People Meter, Skarzynski testified that he took part in helping a panel member’s family with its PPM. Arbitron executives now say that was not true and that, though its personnel did indeed help the family, Skarzynski was not involved.

CFO Sean Creamer described what Skarzynski said as “erroneous” and a “misstatement.” He said the company has asked the committee to correct the record for the hearing transcript. In explaining Skarzynski’s resignation, he said: “Honesty and integrity are the cornerstones of Arbitron’s values, and we take any acts inconsistent with these values very seriously.”

A misdemeanor charge of making misrepresentations to Congress can lead to as much as a year in jail though federal guidelines call for a lighter sentence, according to news accounts of other past cases. There’s been no public indication at this point that Skarzynski faces a charge or penalty. Towns earlier said his committee would review the matter to see if the false testimony was intentional and whether further action is necessary. Arbitron told investors as far as the company is concerned, the situation has been handled, leaving no exposure to the company.

“We raised it, brought it to their attention” and are working to correct the record, Creamer told investors.

Creamer and incoming President/CEO Bill Kerr believe no more surprises are coming related to this situation. “We’ve found nothing beyond this that should cause concern,” Kerr said.

At this point, Kerr sees no need for dramatic changes at the company. He’s “dis-engaging” from other business activities to focus on his new position; he intends to focus on getting the company through this transition and continuing to work through PPM’s challenges as well as developing long-term growth strategies for the company.

Kerr, who’s been on the Arbitron board for two years, is a former Meredith publishing executive. He’s told Meredith they need to replace him on that board.

Asked whether there was a link between the change at the top and news that the Media Ratings Council denied Arbitron accreditation for the PPM in 18 markets, company officials said no.

Progress Towards a Common Goal” (from RW’s Jan. 1, 2010, issue)
Read Skarzynski’s prepared remarks given Dec. 2 on the Hill