Novartis's Top Lawyer is Out After Payments to Michael Cohen


President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen offered to help Novartis AG get a grip on the USA administration's position on key health-care issues before an agreement with the Swiss drugmaker quickly turned sour, former Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez said.

The top lawyer at pharmaceutical giant Novartis is retiring after the company signed a $1.2 million contract with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Jimenez, who handed the reins to Narasimhan this year, said the contract with Cohen was negotiated with the company's legal team after the two sides made contact. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end", Ehrat said in a statement issued by the firm.

Novartis had also paid Cohen into the account, which is the same LLC that Cohen used to pay $130,000 to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, allegedly for her silence about an affair she claims she had with Trump.

Ehrat's departure was announced ahead of today's investor conference at Novartis headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, where executives addressed questions via Q&A.

Shannon Thyme Klinger, who is now the chief ethics, risk and compliance officer at Novartis, will take Ehrat's place as Group General Counsel on June 1. After the payments were exposed last week, Novartis has fought hard to distance Narasimhan from the scandal, insisting he was not involved in the contract. The company has said it quickly determined that Cohen's business would be unable to provide the services it anticipated and decided not to engage further, but was contractually bound to keep making monthly payments of $100,000.

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US lawmakers have demanded Novartis and AT&T, which also made payments to Cohen's firm, provide details and Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has initiated an investigation. He said the company continued to pay him because it feared litigation over a premature termination of the agreement.

"With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", Novartis said in a statement to Business Insider on March 9.

"That was a mistake", said Jimenez who admitted the firm should have "parted ways" with Cohen as soon as it became apparent he could not help.

Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017. At one point he recommended that the company should build a manufacturing site in the US but Novartis never acted on any of his advice, the ex-CEO added.

Novartis had not acted on the advice and Cohen had never provided any access to anyone in the administration, said Jimenez.

Novartis has faced public outrage in recent weeks over its payment to Essential Consultants, a company founded by Mr. Cohen in 2016.