Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization on Thursday, claiming his former employer owes him millions of dollars in unpaid legal and court fees related to federal investigations that stem from Cohen’s work on the president’s behalf.
In a lawsuit filed in the state of New York, Cohen alleges that the Trump Organization has refused to pay his attorneys since last summer, around the time Cohen publicly agreed to cooperate in a federal investigation into the president. Cohen says the company breached an indemnification agreement it had entered into with Cohen as part of his former role as the company’s executive vice president and special counsel, and his work as Trump’s personal attorney.
Cohen last year pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax fraud and a campaign finance violation he says was committed on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 campaign. Cohen begins a three-year prison sentence for the charges in May.
Cohen’s suit deepens the schism between him and his former boss, who after initially defending Cohen has eviscerated him in public comments and on social media. Trump has called him a “rat” and a “liar” and leveled threats and accusations against him on Twitter as a result of Cohen’s cooperation with investigators.
The suit also comes after Cohen appeared in front of several congressional panels over the past two weeks for questioning over his work for Trump — namely his involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project and his facilitation of hush money payments on behalf of the president to women who claim to have had affairs with him.
In a 20-page complaint filed in Manhattan, Cohen alleges that the Trump Organization, now run by the president’s sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., suddenly stopped paying his legal bills last summer after Cohen agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in their probe of Trump’s ties to Russia.
Up until that point, the lawsuit says, the company had reaffirmed its obligations under the agreement multiple times, but on multiple occasions required Cohen’s “direct appeal” to the Trump sons “regarding the Organization’s repeated delays in paying his attorneys’ fees and expenses.”
“Mr. Cohen reasonably relied upon the Trump Organization’s agreement to pay for his attorneys’ fees and costs, and based on this agreement, engaged counsel to represent him in the Investigations and other matters,” the suit says. The company’s refusal beginning last year to pay Cohen’s mounting legal bills prompting his first attorney to quit, requiring Cohen to seek other legal representation, it says.
Cohen claims that his unpaid legal fees exceed $1.9 million, and says the Trump Organization, as part of the indemnification agreement, owes him the $1.9 million he’s been ordered to pay as part of his plea agreement with prosecutors.
He’s also seeking a declaratory judgment on the scope of his indemnification agreement with the Trump Organization and damages for breach of good faith under the agreement.