Charter puts COO on paid leave

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The crisis at Charter Communications Inc. just got worse, as the cable operator
said chief operating officer David Barford had been placed on paid leave.

A federal grand jury has been investigating Charter's accounting practices,
but there's no indication whether the move was tied to the criminal inquiry.

Investors are assuming that Barford's status is a sign that even worse news
is coming, pounding the company's stock and bonds. Charter's stock was down 20
percent Tuesday morning -- not a huge deal, since Charter is already a penny stock
and small-dollar moves mean big-percentage changes.

More alarming is trading in the company's bonds, some of which dropped from
an already-low 55 cents on the dollar to 45 cents, a giant swing in the bond
markets.

A Charter executive said he could not elaborate beyond a terse press release
that said CEO Carl Vogel is assuming Barford's duties.

Barford has been with Charter since 1995, joining the company from Comcast
Corp.

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