AT&T Says Hiring Cohen Was a Mistake, Lays Out Plan to Hire Better Swamp Fixers

Michael Cohen
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

AT&T said Friday that hiring Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was a “big mistake.”

CEO Randall Stephenson sent a memo saying that while hiring Cohen was done according to the law and “entirely legitimate,” their association was “a serious misjudgment.”

The memo does not explain what AT&T thinks was wrong about hiring Cohen or how he failed to live up to the company’s “high standards.” The relationship with Cohen has brought unwanted attention to the company’s practice of hiring individuals and firms to provide an advantage in political matters. The memo was first reported by CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Ryan Ruggerio.

One reading of Stephenson’s memo is that the problem with Cohen was simply that he was not as competent as the political fixers AT&T typically hires. Cohen was reportedly hired in part to help the telecommunications giant with its plans to win approval for its acquisition of Time Warner. The Trump administration sued to block that deal, which may mean that Cohen’s advice or other services provided were ineffective or that the Trump administration is less vulnerable to paid influencers than prior administrations.

AT&T admits it is not curtailing its use of fixers. Instead, it says it is reshuffling its executives 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.”

Stephenson says that senior vice president for external and legal affairs Bob Quinn, “will be retiring.” The group he once ran will now report to AT&T General COunsel David McAtee.

Here is the full memo:

All AT&T employees worldwide Team, 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.

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.

Here is more information on this issue, if you’re interested. 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.

 

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