Novartis's top lawyer is out after Michael Cohen payments

Novartis's top lawyer is out after Michael Cohen payments

President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen offered to help Novartis AG get a grip on the US 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.

In a statement he said: "Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error". "As a cosignatory with our former C.E.O., I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end".

The top lawyer at Novartis is leaving after the company's $1.2 million yearlong contract with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen came to light.

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

Ehrat, who has been Group General Counsel and Member of the Executive Committee of Novartis since 2011, is to step down on June 1st in the context of discussions surrounding payments to Michael Cohen's Essential Communications, the company said in a statement. Novartis has said that Narasimhan had no involvement.

Apart from AT&T and Novartis, Cohen was also paid by Korea Aerospace Industries and Columbus Nova, a NY investment firm whose biggest client is Renova Group, a conglomerate owned by US -sanctioned, Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg.

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Novartis was drawn into Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of suspected Russian meddling in the USA presidential election after it signed a one-year agreement with Cohen's firm.

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".

Jimenez said he never met Cohen himself but told Forbes they did have a long phone conversation where he asked about Cohen's background. In an interview with Bloomberg, Jimenez said he hired Cohen thinking the lawyer had stopped working for Trump and turned to selling "his expertise in terms of knowing the personalities that were in the administration".

"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 has denied it was trying to gain access to Trump via payments to a firm controlled by Michael Cohen. At one point he recommended that the company should build a manufacturing site in the USA but Novartis never acted on any of his advice, the ex-CEO added.

While his exit offers some measure of accountability, though, the company still faces scrutiny into why it paid an unusually high amount for advice on healthcare policy that Cohen was unable to deliver.

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