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Novartis Says General Counsel to Retire After Cohen Payments

16 May 2018

Felix Ehrat, 61, who was general counsel and a member of the Novartis executive committee since 2011, is retiring and will be succeeded by the chief risk and compliance officer, according to a statement released in conjunction with an investor meeting.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis on May 16 announced the retirement of its top legal expert, as he apologized in a statement for payments made by the firm to Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Last week, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti wrote on Twitter that Novartis and USA telecoms giant AT&T had used the services of Cohen's firm Essential Consultants - the same company used to make the payment to Daniels. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end". But as we reported previously, the drug maker continued making payments - in $100,000 monthly installments - to avoid angering Trump.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing the adult-film star Stormy Daniels, alleged in May that a Novartis unit had paid Essential Consulting, a firm linked to Cohen, almost $400,000 in late 2017 and early 2018.

"With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain United States healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", Novartis said in a statement to Business Insider on March 9.

Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017.

Michael Avenatti, Daniels' lawyer, also revealed that Cohen received $500,000 through Essential Consultants from Columbus Nova, a company with connections to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who has ties to President Vladimir Putin.

Both Ehrat and former chief executive Joe Jimenez signed the contract a year ago. Novartis said it stopped using Essential's services, but couldn't break the contract and paid him for the next 11 months.

Novartis Says General Counsel to Retire After Cohen Payments