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AT & T, Novartis CEOs apologize for payments to Michael Cohen







  An AT & T business is shown. | Getty

"There is no other way to say it – AT & T, who hired Michael Cohen as a political advisor, was a big mistake," said the CEO of AT & T

Updated


The General Manager of AT & T and Novartis are both in mitigation mode for their dealings with Michael Cohen, apologizing to employees for the poor judgment, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer for insights into the president's thinking.

AT & T also announced its top public policy officer on Friday

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The fallout showed no sign of easing as details continued to dispute over the arrangements that Cohen made with both companies, a longtime Trump, had met Fixer without known policy beating. Cohen Bille He himself was a political advisor who could give advice on what the new government and its top officials think – and at a time when the new president's political stance was largely unknown, companies poured out a lot of money for advice.

Now they regret this decision publicly.

"There is no other way to say it – AT & T, who hired Michael Cohen as a political advisor, was a big mistake," AT & T head Randall Stephenson told employees on Friday.

Similarly, Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan wrote in an email on Thursday: "We have made a mistake in this commitment and are being criticized by a world that expects more from us."

The mea culpas have capped a week that is a bit of a PR nightmare for AT & T and Novartis. The massive corporations found themselves involved in the political drama surrounding Cohen, which had been mired in its own legal mud in recent weeks.

Both companies confirmed earlier this week that Special Adviser Robert Mueller had requested information from them late last year as part of an ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The companies said they fully cooperated with investigators.

The steady drop in revelations began on Tuesday when Michael Avenatti, a lawyer representing adult movie actress Stormy Daniels, released bank records showing payments from a handful of customers to Cohen's shell firm Essential Consultants LLC. Avenatti claims that Cohen used funds from the consulting firm to pay Daniel's $ 130,000 before the 2016 election to keep quiet about a previous affair with the president.

AT & T paid Cohen $ 600,000 for strategic advice in 2017 on its $ 85 billion merger with Time Warner, which Trump has rejected since its announcement, and on political issues such as net neutrality and tax reform. POLITICO documents show that Cohen had a one-year contract that began just days after Trump's inauguration.

Whatever advice or access AT & T received from Cohen may not have fully delivered the results that the company sought. It made gains in net neutrality and tax reform, where Trump management priorities agreed with large companies and the GOP establishment. But Trump's Department of Justice still lamented blocking the Time Warner deal last year.

Meanwhile, Novartis has starved $ 1.2 million in a 12-month contract to gain insight into the health plans of the Trump administration. The pharmaceutical manufacturer said Cohen did not deliver as promised, but it was stuck in the contract and continued to make payments.

In fact, Cohen has not worked in healthcare, telecommunications or any other policy area. He is, however, near Trump. This has led some people to suspect that the companies have turned to Cohen to gain access to the upper echelons of the White House instead of turning to experts. Both companies have denied that Cohen exercised influence on Trump on their behalf.

Stephenson claims that the company's actions were a "serious miscalculation," but were still exaggerated. AT & T said Cohen had not offered to arrange meetings with Trump administration officials, but offered itself an insight into "key players, their priorities and how they think".

"To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and was perfectly legitimate," Stephenson said.

Nonetheless, Bob Quinn, the chief telecom official, will step down after the news of the week, a sign of the damage Cohen has inflicted on the firm's reputation in Washington. The Public Policy Shop of AT & T will report to General Counsel David McAtee for the "foreseeable future".

"David's top priority is to ensure that each and every one of us is deployed in the political arena. We would be proud to be associated with AT & T," he continued.

Narasimhan said he knew that employees were likely to be "disappointed and frustrated". The agreement was reached before Narasimhan assumed the role of CEO in February.

"Personally and for my family yesterday was also a difficult day, as unsubstantiated stories were spread by the US News, and while I was not involved in any aspect of this situation, the facts did not matter." I went to sleep frustrated and tired. " Narasimhan wrote. "But I woke up this morning with determination."


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