Top lawyer exits as Novartis seeks to quell Cohen backlash


A top executive for Novartis is leaving the drug manufacturer over payments to President TrumpDonald John TrumpOregon governor to face state rep in November Ashford, Eastman neck and neck in Nebraska Dem primary Progressive pick Wild wins Dem primary for Pa. House seat MORE's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

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

"I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end", Ehrat said in a statement on the Novartis website.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company acknowledged last week that it paid Cohen $120,000 a month beginning in February 2017 for advice on how to navigate the new Trump administration's policies on health care.

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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.

Narasimhan called the contract a major mistake at a meeting with investors in Basel and said Novartis is developing a principles-, not rules-based system to avert corruption.

The one-year deal with Essential was revealed last week when lawyer Michael Avenatti, whose client Stormy Daniels is suing Cohen, announced several corporations paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the shell company. Novartis agreed to a $100,000 per month contract for one-year with Essentials Consultants.

USA special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the payments as a strand of his wider investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of collusion and obstruction of justice by the Trump campaign.

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Manafort is charged with tax and bank fraud connected to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia interests in Ukraine.

Jimenez told Bloomberg that Cohen had "oversold his abilities" in being able to explain the then-new Trump administration's position on healthcare issues.

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". Novartis should have done more due diligence and "definitively parted ways" with Cohen as soon as it knew he wouldn't be able to help, the former CEO said.

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

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 addition to those who actually lobby the government, a person would have to register under FARA if they do any kind of public relations for a foreign client or act as a consultant on US policy, as Cohen was hired to do.

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