Novartis top lawyer exits over payment to Trump lawyer

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan

The top executive at Swiss drug making company Novartis is retiring from the company in connection with the $1.2 million it paid to a shadow company owned by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Micheal Cohen a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Novartis said its general counsel, Felix Ehrat, had chose to retire from his position in the "context of discussions" surrounding the payments to Cohen. He will be replaced by chief ethics, risk and compliance officer Shannon Thyme Klinger.

Ehrat announced he'd step down from Novartis in June, admitted the Cohen deal was "an error."

Both Ehrat and former chief executive Joe Jimenez signed the contract past year.

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The Swiss company revealed last week (9 May) that it had paid Cohen's company Essential Consultants $1.2m for healthcare policy consulting work that he had proved "unable" to do.

His departure follows the disclosure last week that Novartis paid $1.2 million in monthly installments to Michael Cohen's Essential Consultants for access to the new Trump administration, as part of a one-year contract signed in February 2017.

Novartis previously admitted to hiring Essential in February 2017 for advice "as to how the Trump administration might approach certain USA healthcare policy matters". Cohen approached former Novartis chief executive Joe Jimenez, who authorized the deal, even though Cohen is not a registered lobbyist or an expert in health care matters.

Jimenez said he also made a mistake in not seeking to end payments to Michael Cohen immediately after Novartis quickly determined that he would be of little help. But as we reported previously, the drug maker continued making payments - in $100,000 monthly installments - to avoid angering Trump.

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