Novartis lawyer steps down over Trump lawyer payment

Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass. speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington Tuesday

Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass. speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington Tuesday

The top executive at Swiss drug making company Novartis is retiring from the company in connection with the $1.2 million it paid to a shadow company owned by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Micheal Cohen past year, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. He will be replaced by chief ethics, risk and compliance officer Shannon Thyme Klinger. Novartis said that Ehrat - who is also a member of the company's executive committee - was retiring "in the context of discussions" over the agreement.

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

In a statement, Ehrat said, "Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error".

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

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.

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

The $100,000-per-month contract with Trump attorney Michael Cohen's Essential Consulting, the same firm used to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to hush up an alleged affair with Trump, has distracted Novartis's efforts to improve its image after a series of bribery scandals.

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".

However, following its initial meeting with Cohen in March 2017, the company realised that he would be "unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated", but was unable to break the contract.

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