Novartis attorney steps down over payments to Trump lawyer Cohen

By Sara Shayanian  |  May 16, 2018 at 8:40 AM
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May 16 (UPI) -- The top lawyer at a Swiss pharmaceutical company that paid President Donald Trump's personal attorney for "insights" into the administration stepped down Wednesday.

Pharma giant Novartis said in a statement its general counsel, Felix Ehrat, decided to retire after discussions of the company's financial agreement with Essential Consultants, the company set up by Trump attorney Michael Cohen a month before the 2016 election.

Novartis has said it gave a $1.2 million contract to Cohen for advice on how Trump might approach "certain U.S. healthcare policy matters," including the Affordable Care Act.

Novartis said upon meeting Cohen in March 2017, it decided he would be "unable to provide the services" it anticipated and "decided not to engage with him further."

Under the signed agreement, Novartis continued to pay Cohen until February.

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error," Ehrat said Wednesday. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end."

Novartis' payment was made through Cohen's Essential Consultants, which was the entity used to deliver a $130,000 payout to adult film actress Stormy Daniels as part of an agreement related to an affair she claims to have had with Trump.

Other companies, including AT&T, a company linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and Korea Aerospace Industries, also made payments to Essential Consultants.

AT&T said last week its hiring of Cohen was a "big mistake" and that Sr. Executive Vice President Bob Quinn, who retained Cohen, would retire.

Both AT&T and Novartis have said they were questioned by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Justice Department's chief Russia investigator.

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