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Charter puts COO on paid leave

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.