AT&T told employees Friday that hiring President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen as a consultant was a “big mistake,” CNBC informed.
The telecommunications giant also announced the retirement of the executive whose unit retained Cohen.
AT&T’s explanation about the $600,000 contract with Cohen came a day after drugmaker Novartis said, “we made a mistake” in hiring Cohen under a whopping $1.2 million contract for health-care policy consulting work. Novartis also said Cohen soon proved unable to do that work, but it kept paying him because the contract “could only be terminated for cause.”
AT&T and Novartis were contacted last fall by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump campaign officials, and asked about their payments to Cohen. Those payments were revealed on Tuesday night by a lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, who is fighting a nondisclosure agreement about her alleged dalliance with Trump.
In a separate “fact sheet” released Friday, AT&T confirmed reports that Cohen was hired to help the company understand how the Trump administration might handle its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner.
“Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged,” said CEO Randall Stephenson in the message to employees. “There is no other way to say it – AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake. To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment. In this instance, our Washington D.C. team’s vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that.”
In that same mea culpa, Stephenson also said AT&T’s senior vice president for external and legal affairs, Bob Quinn, “will be retiring.”
Quinn had started with the old Bell system as a telephone operator in 1980, later went on to become a trial attorney after law school and rejoined AT&T in 1993 as a regional attorney. He had been in charge of the external and legislative affairs group since October 2016, several months before Cohen was hired by that unit.
Stephenson said from now on the external and legal affairs group would be reporting to company general counsel David McAtee.