Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Novartis top lawyer quits over Cohen payments

Novartis top lawyer quits over Cohen payments

Novartis AG said Wednesday its general counsel is retiring from the company in connection with its $1.2 million payments to a company owned by Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, as the Swiss drugmaker battles to contain the fallout from the arrangement.

Novartis' general counsel Felix Ehrat will be replaced on June 1 by Shannon Thyme Klinger, who now works as the company's chief ethics, risk and compliance officer, according to the WSJ.

The announcement comes after Novartis was dragged into the scandal over Cohen's payment of $130,000 to USA porn actress Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

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The $100,000-per-month contract between Novartis and Cohen's Essential Consultants was approved under former chief executive Joe Jimenez in 2017 as a bid to gain insight into USA healthcare policy under the new administration.

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error", Ehrat said in a statement. It said it believed that Cohen could advise the company on the Trump administration's approach to healthcare policies, including the Affordable Care Act. After that meeting, the company determined he wouldn't be useful and decided not to engage with him further. It said the payments continued because the contract could not have been terminated.

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.

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