The world’s largest telecommunications mogul, AT&T, recently disclosed hiring Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer and close advisor, for consulting advice on its momentous purchase of Time Warner.
Cohen was also entrusted with providing valuable insight into the president’s recently-passed tax reform and new administration. Yet, Cohen’s services, as AT&T claims, were strictly limited to consulting and never entailed lobbying.
The revelation of the arrangement between Cohen and AT&T was made public by Stephanie Clifford’s, also known as Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, and comes at a critical time for the telecom giant. Indeed, the Department of Justice has decided to block AT&T’s attempt at purchasing Time Warner by suing the deal for the sake of consumers.
Moreover, the decision to hire Cohen on AT&T’s part, at once considered ingenious because of Cohen’s close relationship with President Trump, was recently denounced by AT&T’s chief executive, Randall L. Stephenson.
In a written memo to his employees, Stephenson said, “There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”
Unlike expected, Cohen was unable to deliver any significant advice on the merger and other company matters, despite AT&T paying him over 600,000. The payment was made to Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, which also reportedly received payments from Novartis, a Swiss drug making corporation, also for Cohen’s intel.
Similarly, Novartis’s CEO, Vasant Narasimhan, has apologized for making a hefty payment of 1.2 million to Michael Cohen for his presumed insight into the president’s health care policy positions. The company’s attempt at gaining the upper hand and its association with Cohen, who is under federal investigation for his business dealings, has proven to be a nightmare for their public relations image.
In an email, Vasant Narasimhan said, “We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticized by a world that expects more from us.”
It’s important to note that the access to the current presidential administration and any potential legislation both companies hoped to gain via Cohen did not yield the intended results. Now, not only do both companies have to face public scrutiny, but they’re also facing congressional examination for alleged attempts at lobbying.
Both corporations deny these claims, but understandably public concern still remains. As his personal lawyer, Cohen could have very well exerted influence over the president for the benefit of his corporate clients. Even then, AT&T maintains its innocence in all of this, only expressing poor judgement in hiring Michael Cohen.
But, these revelations are expected to have little effect on AT&T’s attempted acquisition of Time Warner or the government’s lawsuit to block the merger. Judge Richard J. Leon, the judge tasked to rule on the legitimacy of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit, of the United States District Court in Washington will deliver his ruling on the case by June 12.
Gene Kimmelman, former employee of the antitrust division at the Department of Justice, comments, “These revelations come at a critical point in the trial, but they are very unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the judge’s ruling.”
Although the transaction between Cohen and AT&T might not have any implications for AT&T’s attempted merger, it does have resounding ramifications for the company’s reputation in D.C. In fact, the company’s public policy official, Bob Quinn, will retire following the revelations.
All lobbyists and officials of AT&T located in the capitol will report to general counsel, David McAtee. Meanwhile, AT&T is scrambling to clean up their mess both in the face of the public and Congress. Nursing those damaged relationships will take tremendous effort, and there’s no telling how much time that will take.
Previously published on NYAToday.com.