AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Says Tax Reform Failure Would Be "Indictment" on Leadership

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Randall Stephenson

At an investor conference in New York, Stephenson pledges more investment should lawmakers lower the corporate tax rate.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is prodding Congress to move forward with significant tax reforms. On Tuesday, at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference 2017 in New York, he told attendees that his company is prepared to step up investment if lawmakers drop the corporate tax rate. And if they don't?

"If we can't get tax reform done, it's a crying shame," the exec told attendees. "If we can not by year end have dropped the corporate rate, it will be a shame and an indictment on business and political leadership."

Stephenson says that investment in premium content is a priority at the company. He singled out HBO in particular. The pay cabler is one of the companies he'd be assuming in a proposed acquisition deal with Time Warner. Stephenson says that integration planning has already been completed and that he remains confident that the deal will close by the end of the year after an ongoing review by the Justice Department.

Some of the new money for more or better content will come from advertising gains, according to Stephenson. He's hoping such gains will come from the greater scale of combining a distribution giant with a media one, better viewership data and standing up a new technology ad platform.

But Stephenson came around to the politically hot topic of tax reforms several times during a Q&A session.

The AT&T chief signaled he wants a corporate tax rate of between 20 and 25 percent, which would put his expectations more in line with what the Republicans in the House are proposing instead of the 15 percent promised from President Donald Trump. Besides tax reform, Congress has a full plate these coming months including hurricane aid relief, immigration, the debt limit and, of course, a fiscal budget for the coming year.

At the investor conference, Stephenson also reiterated that Time Warner would be run as an independent subsidiary. 

"I know very little about running a media company," he said. "I've studied, but it's very different than running a telecom company. It's going to run as a separate subsidiary. It's important we run it as a separate independent company."

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