Top pharma lawyer resigns over payments to Cohen

Wednesday, 16 May, 2018

Novartis has denied it was trying to gain access to Trump via payments to a firm controlled by Michael Cohen.

The top lawyer at Novartis stepped down after it was revealed he signed a $1.2 million contract with President Trump's personal lawyer - more fallout from the payments companies made to Michael Cohen.

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

Cohen's Essential Consultants received $1.2 million from Novartis in a one-year contract ending in February 2018.

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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, almost $400,000 in late 2017 and early 2018. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end", Ehrat said in a statement issued by the firm.

After the news broke of the Novartis deal, U.S. media speculated the Swiss firm had been trying to gain access to the USA president. The company said it had expected that Cohen could advise it on the administration's approach to healthcare policies such as the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

After meeting with Cohen in March 2017 the company said it concluded that Cohen wouldn't be helpful and decided not to meet with him again, but continued to pay out his contract.

The Basel-based drugs company said general counsel Felix Ehrat is stepping down after about seven years in post "in the context of discussions surrounding Novartis' former agreement with Essential Consultants, owned by Michael Cohen". He said the company continued to pay him because it feared litigation over a premature termination of the agreement.

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.