AT&T and Novartis have had a heavy price to pay for associating with Michael Cohen soon after President Donald Trump came into power. Both the firms are regretting their decisions to enter into a yearlong contract with Cohen to gain insights into the President’s thinking.
AT&T had a merger deal going on with Time Warner in 2017 and was interested in knowing whether it would get the nod from the President’s office. It also wanted the President’s views on tax reform and net neutrality. Cohen failed to deliver as thought otherwise by the company. The President’s stance on tax reform and net neutrality issues though, were in line with the company’s policies. However, AT&T failed to win on the merger deal which was blocked by the Justice Department. A payment to the tune of $600,000 was made by the company to Cohen.
Payment made by drugmaker, Novartis to Cohen for obtaining political insights amounted to a whopping $1.2 million for the year. Novartis failed to obtain any gainful information from Cohen but could not stop from making the binding payments.
There are differing views on whether Cohen could have been of use to the two companies. The companies have refuted the charges that they expected Cohen to influence President Trump. According to Rudy Giuliani, the President’s one of the new lawyers stated that the idea of Cohen influencing the President was an implausible one. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Press Secretary at the White House stated that the opposition to the merger was not because of vested interest influences but a plain opposition from the Justice Department. AT&T CEO, Randall Stephenson stated that though the firm had misjudged Cohen’s capabilities its actions were within the law. A similar thought was expressed by Novartis CEO, Vasant Narasimhan.
The furor caused Bob Quinn, AT & T’s top public policy official, to put in his retirement papers. The CEOs of both the companies have apologized to their employees for their appointing of Michael Cohen as political advisor. Meanwhile, Cohen is being criminally investigated for his unlawful business activities. Both the companies are extending their full cooperation to the investigators in this case.