Top lawyer leaving Novartis over Cohen payments

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Last week, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti wrote on Twitter that Novartis and US telecoms giant AT&T had used the services of Cohen's firm Essential Consultants - the same company used to make the payment to Daniels.

A top executive for Novartis is leaving the drug manufacturer over payments to President TrumpDonald John TrumpOregon governor to face state rep in November Ashford, Eastman neck and neck in Nebraska Dem primary Progressive pick Wild wins Dem primary for Pa. House seat MORE's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Ehrat commented: 'Although the contract was legally in order, 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", Mr. Ehrat said in a statement.

"With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", Novartis stated.

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

Felix Ehrat, who along with former Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez signed the agreement with a consulting firm led by lawyer Michael Cohen, will step down after seven years as Novartis's general counsel, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said Wednesday in a statement. After the payments were exposed last week, Novartis has fought hard to distance Narasimhan from the scandal, insisting he was not involved in the contract.

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US lawmakers have demanded Novartis and AT&T, which also made payments to Cohen's firm, provide details and Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has initiated an investigation.

Novartis has denied it was trying to gain access to Trump via payments to a firm controlled by Michael Cohen. Ethics experts say that Cohen may have run afoul of foreign lobbying laws if it was the Swiss parent corporation - Novartis AG - and not the USA subsidiary that held the contract or paid him.

According to Bloomberg, Jimenez's successor, Vas Narasimhan, has told Novartis's managers that the company needs to "rethink its approach to the use of consultants and lobbying firms". Rather than terminating the contract, Jimenez elected not to, because he anxious that ensuing litigation would cost more than paying out the contract would.

A "third party" recommended Cohen to Novartis, Jimenez said, declining to identify that person. 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.

Jimenez told Bloomberg that Cohen had "oversold his abilities" in being able to explain the then-new Trump administration's position on healthcare issues.

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