May 11, 2018
NEWS ANALYSIS – Showtime’s compelling drama, “Billions,” showcases fictional machinations and strange bedfellows underscoring Wall Street greed and political malfeasance.
A setting apparently not unlike corporate America operating under President Donald Trump.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson May 11 became the second senior executive to apologize to employees for corporate decisions related to the hiring of Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen to gain better insight into the president’s mindset and executive decision making.
Media reports say AT&T paid Cohen $600,000 to assuage Trump on the merits of its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which includes Warner Bros., Turner and HBO.
Trump, on the campaign, had voiced opposition toward the merger – a stance many observers attributed more to his dislike of CNN, which is owned by Turner, than concern for consumers.
The AT&T/Time Warner deal appeared heading to regulatory closure when the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit in opposition. A federal judge will rule on the matter in June.
Cohen, of course, is much more than a lawyer and confidante for Trump. His skills reportedly revolve around “fixing” Trump’s problems – including an alleged 2006 affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, in which Cohen facilitated a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels before the 2016 election.
The AT&T/Cohen connection was first disclosed by The New York Times.
Calling the matter, a PR blunder, Stephenson, in a letter to employees, said the decision had damaged AT&T’s reputation and put the telecom in the headlines for “all the wrong reasons.”
“There is no other way to say it, AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake,” Stephenson wrote.
Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan the same day issued a similar memo to employees after it was disclosed the pharmaceutical giant paid Cohen $1.7 million for guidance regarding Trump’s approach to healthcare policies.
“We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticized by a world that expects more from us,” Narasimhan wrote, as reported by CNBC.