May 27, 2018

Novartis's top lawyer is out after Michael Cohen payments

16 May 2018, 09:46 | Brandon Parsons

Novartis lawyer steps down over Trump lawyer payment

Novartis general counsel steps down over drugmaker's $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen

Novartis' general counsel Felix Ehart has announced that he will resign after revelations that he was a co-signatory on a controversial contract with United States president Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Blame, instead, has fallen more heavily on former CEO Joe Jimenez, who handed the job to Narasimhan in February.

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

Jimenez also had his take on where the mistake lay. It said it believed that Cohen could advise the company on the Trump administration's approach to healthcare policies, including the Affordable Care Act.

"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 said.

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"This was right after the election". Novartis should have done more due diligence and "definitively parted ways" with Cohen as soon as it knew he wouldn't be able to help, the former CEO said.

Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017.

Narasimhan called the contract a major mistake at a meeting with investors in Basel and said Novartis is developing a principles-, not rules-based system to avert corruption.

Felix Ehrat, Novartis's group general counsel, said in a Wednesday statement that although the company's $100,000-per-month contract with Cohen was legal, "it was an error". Klinger first joined Novartis in 2011 as Sandoz's general counsel. Writing to Narasimhan on Friday, Wyden demanded detailed answers about the Cohen agreement, including who at Novartis had approved it and what the company had expected in return for its $1.2m payment. They pointed to the fact Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan was one of a group of business leaders who dined with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels or knowing anything about that payment but his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged the United States president had in fact reimbursed Cohen for the payoff.

An investigation in Greece, where Novartis allegedly bribed top government officials millions of euros for product sales. At one point he recommended that the company should build a manufacturing site in the US but Novartis never acted on any of his advice, the ex-CEO added. The agencies are questioning current and former senior executives of the Novartis eye unit, securities filings show. "Let me be absolutely clear: I never want Novartis to achieve our financial performance or objectives because we compromised on ethical standards or our values". "I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end".

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