Novartis legal head resigns over Cohen payments

Novartis dumps general counsel over payments to Trump lawyer

Mr. Ehrat, who has been Novartis' group general counsel since 2011, made the decision to retire "in the context of discussions" surrounding the payment to President Trump's personal lawyer.

It said last week that, although it quickly realized Cohen was "unable to provide the service that Novartis had anticipated", it continued to pay him until the contract-signed by Ehrat and former Novartis chief Joe Jimenez-expired in February this year.

A news story from Bloomberg reports that Narasimhan has responded to the scandal by inviting 5,000 senior Novartis managers to a conference call, in which he stressed the need for the company to regain public trust and change how it works with consultants and lobbyists.

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

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Novartis appears hopeful that Ehrat's departure will help defuse the controversy that has engulfed the Swiss drugmaker.

Shannon Thyme Klinger, now Novartis' Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer, will take over the Group General Counsel role from 1 June, and the company has signalled that its compliance and ethics measures will be tightened in response to the affair. Novartis stock, which trades through American Depositary Receipts on the New York Stock Exchange, has moved less 1% since news of the payments broke.

However Mr Ehrat's resignation won't bring the matter to a close, as formal investigations into the payments remain a possibility in Switzerland and the US.

Apart from AT&T and Novartis, Cohen was also paid by Korea Aerospace Industries and Columbus Nova, a NY investment firm whose biggest client is Renova Group, a conglomerate owned by US -sanctioned, Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg. 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.

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Jimenez said the contract with Cohen was negotiated with Novartis' legal team after an introduction from an unidentified "third party", and that he had not met the lawyer in person.

The case is under examination by the Greek and US authorities.

Novartis had not acted on the advice and Cohen had never provided any access to anyone in the administration, said Jimenez. In addition to those who actually lobby the government, a person would have to register under FARA if they do any kind of public relations for a foreign client or act as a consultant on USA policy, as Cohen was hired to do.

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