Novartis top lawyer exits over payment to Trump lawyer

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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.

Novartis' general counsel Felix Ehart has announced that he will resign after revelations that he was a co-signatory on a controversial contract with United States president Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error". And while Novartis contends the deal was a mistaken attempt to gain insight into the policies of a new administration, it presents a reputational challenge for a company previously accused of improper payments elsewhere in its business dealings.

Felix Ehrat inked the one-year deal with Cohen's Essential Consultants, the shell company he used to pay porn star Stormy Daniels to keep mum about an alleged affair with the president.

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 said she had not been aware of the Cohen contact.

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"After my team met with him individually, it was clear that he oversold his abilities".

After paying Essential Consultants a monthly fee of $100,000, the contract is now at an end.

Last week, a top Senate Democrat opened an inquiry into the agreement between Novartis and Cohen, sending letters to Narasimhan and Cohen seeking financial information and a further accounting of the company's rationale for engaging the Trump insider. 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.

Public Citizen, a liberal government watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Justice Department and officials on Capitol Hill earlier this week, asking them to look into whether Cohen violated FARA or the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the US lobbying law, which is overseen by House and Senate record-keeping offices. It said it believed that Cohen could advise the company on the Trump administration's approach to healthcare policies, including the Affordable Care Act.

Novartis has said that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, contacted them last November to inquire about the connection to Mr. Cohen, and that the company cooperated with the investigation and considers its role closed.

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