Novartis Top Lawyer Is Stepping Down After Cohen Payments

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

In a statement, Novartis said that Felix R. Ehrat, the group general counsel, will be replaced by Shannon Thyme Klinger, who is now the company's top ethics officer, at the beginning of June.

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

Jimenez, who handed the reins to Narasimhan this year, said the contract with Cohen was negotiated with the company's legal team after the two sides made contact.

"With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain USA healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", Novartis said in a statement to Business Insider on March 9. The company has said it quickly determined that Cohen's business would be unable to provide the services it anticipated and decided not to engage further, but was contractually bound to keep making monthly payments of $100,000.

Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017. Novartis has said that Narasimhan had no involvement.

"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. He will retire at the start of June, to be replaced by current Novartis ethics chief Shannon Thyme Klinger.

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Novartis said in a statement at the time that the company concluded after a meeting with Cohen that he was "unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to USA healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further".

A US probe into whistleblower allegations that the company offered kickbacks to doctors via fancy dinners shamming as educational events.

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

"Let me be absolutely clear: I never want Novartis to achieve our financial performance or objectives because we compromised on our ethical standards or our values-we must always choose our values", the CEO told investors, and promised to roll out a new guidance on how best to organize on integrity and compliance in the coming months.

Ehrat's retirement echoes that last week of of AT&T's top lobbyist, Bob Quinn, who had responsibility for that company's hiring of Cohen and his Essential Consultants vehicle.

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. He said the company continued to pay him because it feared litigation over a premature termination of the agreement.

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