WASHINGTON – AT & T Chief Executive Officer Randall L. Stephenson said on Friday that the company had made a "big mistake" by hiring Michael Trum's personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to take over Deal with Time Warner
"Our company has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent days and our reputation has been damaged," Stephenson wrote in a memo to staff. "There's no other way to say that – AT & T, who hired Michael Cohen as a political advisor, was a big mistake."
Mr. Stephenson's announcement followed the revelation that the company had paid Mr. Cohen $ 600,000 to discuss the merger of $ 85.4 billion with Time Warner and other regulatory matters. Mr. Stephenson also said in the memo that Bob Quinn, the company's lobbying and external affairs officer, would retire.
The payment to Ms. Clifford was the first known activity involving Essentials Consulting, a so-called shell company founded by Mr. Cohen of Delaware. It was through Essentials Consulting that AT & T kept Mr. Cohen back.
The disclosure of AT & T's connections to Mr. Cohen comes a critical moment for the company, which defends its merger with Time Warner in federal court against the Department of Commerce's blocking efforts of the deal.
Mr. Stephenson insisted in his memo that "everything we did was made lawful and perfectly legitimate" and that Mr. Cohen did not lobby AT & T. Nevertheless, Stephenson added that the retention of Mr. Cohen was "a grave misperception".
"In this case," he continued, "our Washington DC team's security review process has clearly failed and I take responsibility for it."  Time Warner was unaware of the AT & T contract with Mr. Cohen, according to a person familiar with the company's thinking. As part of Time Warner, officials learned about the contract with Essentials Consulting this week.
The company's comprehensive lobby team, which includes more than 100 people, and public administration staff will now report to AT & T's legal counsel, David & McAstee. 19659002] AT & T has said that Mr. Cohen approached employees at the company's Washington office shortly after the election. He promised to give advice on who the "main actors" in Trump's administration were and "their priorities and how they think," AT & T said in a fact sheet published on Friday.
The company also said in fact sheet that it had been contacted late last year about Mr. Cohen by the office of Robert S. Mueller III, the special adviser, the Russian interference in the 2016 elections and other matters, and had completely cooperated with the investigations.
AT & T noted in the factsheet that Mr. Cohen was among "several advisors" who hired the company when Mr. Trump took over the presidency. It did not identify the others.