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Novartis’ top lawyer resigns over payments to Michael Cohen


The top lawyer for drugmaker Novartis said he’ll step down after hiring Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants as an adviser last year.


Felix Ehrat, general counsel for the Swiss drugmaker, noted in a statement Wednesday that the company’s $1.2 million agreement was “legally in order,” but added “it was an error.”


“As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end,” said Ehrat, who will officially leave June 1.


Novartis previously admitted to hiring Essential in February 2017 for advice “as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. healthcare policy matters.”


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.


Former CEO Joe Jimenez, who signed the deal with Ehrat, claims Cohen pitched himself to executives, offering insight into the new administration.

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

(HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)


“Michael Cohen was somebody who was introduced to us, and he was unknown to us, but he was said to be somebody who could help,” Jimenez told Bloomberg in an interview published Wednesday.


But executives weren’t impressed by Cohen after their first meeting in March 2017, a month into the deal. Novartis said it stopped using Essential’s services, but couldn’t break the contract and paid him for the next 11 months.


“After my team met with him individually, it was clear that he oversold his abilities,” Jimenez told Bloomberg.


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team also reached out to Novartis last November over its contract with Essential.

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