Former attorney Michael Cohen testified Tuesday about Donald Trump's involvement in a $130,000 hush money payout to an adult film actress. But that money is only a fraction of how much the testimony is costing American employers.
Andy Challenger, vice president at executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says the enormously-anticipated testimony before the U.S. House Oversight Committee is being watched and discussed around the country--including by folks at work. Live-streaming of the testimony can add up to big distractions, he says.
"We're estimating roughly 69.5 million Americans are going to lose some sort of productivity during the day," says Challenger. "If each one of those Americans spent just 15 minutes watching the live coverage, discussing it with coworkers, reading analysis about it, it would cost employers about $500 million."
Last month, the average hourly wage in the U.S. was $27.56. Multiply that by the 69.5 million workers estimated to be at work, with Internet access, and interested in politics--and it's a big figure.
"If that group of people spent just one hour devoted to the news of the day, it could cost employers over $1.9 billion in lost productivity," Challenger tells WSB.
That's $1,915,420,000 per hour, to be exact.
A 2016 poll by the company finds that 94% of employees talk about politics on the job.
Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, testified that Trump is a racist, cheat, and con man who acted like a mob boss. He says his loyalty to Trump has cost him his job, his family and his freedom. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress, but says he is no longer protecting the president.
Challenger says the firm noted a similar outcome with the hearings of Supreme Court nominees over the last couple of years. But it pales in comparison to March Madness, which is just around the corner.
"It's become this phenomenon in the American workplace, where employers are putting together pools for their employees to participate in, they're streaming the games in the break room, and many are watching on their computers and slowing down Internet productivity for the entire office," says Challenger. "So events like that really dwarf this couple of hours of testimony we're seeing today."
In 2018, Challenger, Gray said that the tournament would cost employers $2.3 billion per hour. The 2019 estimate is not yet out.
Challenger said there's not much employers can do to get around the bottom-line impact of the Cohen testimony, or future hearings people want to watch.
"Certainly, any attempts to ban your employees from accessing the news during the day might be counterproductive, and decrease morale more than the news itself. Companies could plan large group meetings during the middle of some of these testimonies to get people together. When you're all in the same room, it's more difficult to tune in to the news or stream those live streams," he says.