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The top lawyer at Novartis is leaving the company after it signed a $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen's consulting firm, took one meeting, and realized he couldn't help them

Lydia Ramsey
Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan

Reuters


  • The top lawyer at pharmaceutical giant Novartis is retiring after the company signed a $1.2 million contract with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • Novartis group general counsel Felix R. Ehrat said Wednesday that he would retire, because of the role he played in setting up the contract, saying that while the contract was legal, "it was an error."
  • Novartis under its former CEO signed the contract in February 2017 with Cohen, took one meeting, then realized Cohen couldn't help

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. 

Novartis group general counsel Felix R. Ehrat said Wednesday that he would retire, because of the role he played in setting up the contract. 

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error," Ehrat said in a statement. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end."

Novartis changed CEOs in February, with Vas Narasimhan replacing former CEO Joe Jimenez. Narasimhan was among the European executives Trump had dinner with in January at Davos, though Novartis said the current CEO was "in no way involved with this agreement."

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing the adult-film star Stormy Daniels, alleged in May that a Novartis unit had paid Essential Consulting, a firm linked to Cohen, nearly $400,000 in late 2017 and early 2018. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said she was paid $130,000 by Cohen to stay quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

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. The contract, which began in February 2017, "focused on US healthcare policy matters" and that the agreement expired in February 2018.

"With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act," Novartis said in a statement to Business Insider on March 9. The company said it met with Cohen only once — in March 2017.

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