Top lawyer at Novartis to step down amid Michael Cohen scandal

Novartis general counsel steps down over drugmaker's $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen

Novartis general counsel steps down over drugmaker's $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen

Porn actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, said Monday, May 14, he did nothing wrong by distributing a report last week that detailed the finances of the president's personal attorney, Cohen, and showed he had charged companies a hefty price for "insight" about Trump.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis on Wednesday announced the retirement of its top legal expert, as he apologised for payments made by the firm to Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Novartis confirmed this by saying it had entered into a one-year agreement with Cohen's firm Essential Consultants in February 2017, shortly after Trump took office.

The payments became public knowledge after Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who is better known as Stormy Daniels, published details of an account used by Cohen to pay Clifford $130,000 so that she would keep quiet about her affair with the USA president.

Novartis executives said in the statement that they have "the greatest respect" for Ehrat's decision to step down.

In a statement, Novartis said that Felix R. Ehrat, the group general counsel, will be replaced by Shannon Thyme Klinger, who is now the company's top ethics officer, at the beginning of June.

Novartis' new CEO Vas Narasimhan has since admitted that the payments were a serious error, but has been careful to distance himself from the decision.


Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017.

But after Jimenez's people sat down with Cohen individually for the first time, "it was clear that he oversold his abilities", the former CEO said. Novartis said it stopped using Essential's services, but couldn't break the contract and paid him for the next 11 months.

Jimenez said he wanted to terminate the deal but decided that doing so would have been costlier than letting the agreement expire because of "almost certain litigation". It was part of efforts to learn more about how the Trump administration might approach US healthcare, Novartis said. He maintained that Novartis never acted on any of Cohen's advice or tried to gain access to anyone in the administration.

"Our new executive team and I have a deep commitment to ensure we always operate with the highest integrity and sound judgment and will work hard to rebuild lasting trust with society", said Narasimhan in a separate statement.

A US probe into whistleblower allegations that the company offered kickbacks to doctors via fancy dinners shamming as educational events.

Ehrat's retirement echoes that last week of of AT&T's top lobbyist, Bob Quinn, who had responsibility for that company's hiring of Cohen and his Essential Consultants vehicle.

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