AT&T KNOWING It Will Get Worse, Starts a Proactive PR Push up: Chief Says Hiring Michael Cohen Was a ‘Big Mistake’
WASHINGTON — Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, said on Friday that the company had made a “big mistake” by hiring President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to advise on the telecommunications giant’s deal to buy Time Warner.
“Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged,” Mr. Stephenson wrote in a memo to employees. “There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”
Mr. Stephenson’s note followed the revelation that the company had paid Mr. Cohen $600,000 to advise on the $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner and other regulatory matters. Mr. Stephenson also said in the memo that the company’s head of lobbying and external affairs, Bob Quinn, 57, would be retiring.
Federal prosecutors are investigating Mr. Cohen’s business dealings, including a $130,000 payment he made to the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, as part of a deal to buy her silence about an affair she says she had with Mr. Trump. The president has denied Ms. Clifford’s claims.
The payment to Ms. Clifford was the first known activity involving Essentials Consulting, a so-called shell company incorporated in Delaware by Mr. Cohen. It was through Essentials Consulting that AT&T retained Mr. Cohen.
The disclosure of AT&T’s ties to Mr. Cohen comes a critical moment for the company, which is defending its merger with Time Warner in federal court against the Justice Department’s efforts to block the deal.