AT&T, Inc., Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President Randall Stephenson said today that the company made “a big mistake” in hiring Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, as a consultant after the 2016 election, and he announced that Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior executive vice president-external and legislative affairs, is retiring.
“Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged. There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake,” Mr. Stephenson said in a memo to company employees. “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.”
“For the foreseeable future, the External & Legislative Affairs (E&LA) group will report to our General Counsel David McAtee. Bob Quinn, Senior Executive Vice President–E&LA, will be retiring. David's number one priority is to ensure every one of the individuals and firms we use in the political arena are people who share our high standards and who we would be proud to have associated with AT&T. To all of you who work tirelessly every day to serve customers and represent the brand proudly, thank you. My personal commitment to you is — we will do better,” Mr. Stephenson added.
In an attachment to the memo, AT&T provided additional information about the hiring of Mr. Cohen, details that generally have already been reported by media outlets.
“In early 2017, as President Trump was taking office, AT&T hired several consultants to help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, tax reform, and antitrust enforcement, specifically our Time Warner deal. Companies often hire political consultants, especially at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and we have done so in previous administrations,” AT&T said. “Michael Cohen approached our External Affairs organization during the post-election transition period and said he was going to leave the Trump Organization and do consulting for a select few companies that wanted his opinion on the new President and his administration — the key players, their priorities, and how they think. Our Washington DC team hired Cohen for just that purpose, under a one-year contract at $50,000 per month, from January through December 2017. Our contract with Cohen was expressly limited to providing consulting and advisory services, and it did not permit him to lobby on our behalf without first notifying us (which never occurred). We didn’t ask him to set up any meetings for us with anyone in the Administration and he didn’t offer to do so.”
AT&T added that when it was “contacted by the Special Counsel’s office regarding Michael Cohen, we cooperated fully, providing all information requested in November and December of 2017. Since then, we have received no additional questions from the Special Counsel’s office and have considered the matter closed.”
The carrier did not respond to a question from TR Daily seeking comment or an interview with Mr. Quinn. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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