Novartis General Counsel to Step Down After Cohen Payments

Florence Fletcher
May 17, 2018

The top lawyer for Swiss drugmaker Novartis is stepping down over payments the company made to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Felix Ehrat, the top lawyer at Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, has chose to step down from his role over the drugmaker's $1.2 million payment to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen for healthcare policy lobbying services.

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error", Ehrat said in the statement.

"With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain USA healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", Novartis stated.

That's the same firm Cohen used to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

To that end, it's parting ways with one of its top lawyers, Felix R. Ehrat, a key player in the drug maker's $1.2 million deal with Trump's longtime fixer.

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. But it said it learned the contract could only be canceled for cause and allowed it to expire in February.

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

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Two people signed Novartis' now-infamous contract with Michael Cohen, and they've both left the company.

The payments were part of a yearlong contract Novartis had with Essential, in which the pharma company paid the consulting firm $100,000 a month.

Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017.

Jimenez said he had wanted to terminate the 12-month deal with Essential Communications as soon as he realised this was the case but decided against doing so because of potential legal costs involved - a decision he now considers a "mistake".

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

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

Novartis asserts it received nothing from Cohen in exchange for the payments, yet the company's timeline leaves questions for skeptics.

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