Top lawyer leaving Novartis over Cohen payments

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The $100,000-per-month contract between Novartis and Cohen's Essential Consultants was approved under former chief executive Joe Jimenez in 2017 as a bid to gain insight into United States healthcare policy under the new administration.

In 2017, Novartis signed an agreement with Essential Consulting, a firm owned by Michael Cohen, US President Trump's personal lawyer.

Ehrat announced he'd step down from Novartis in June, admitted the Cohen deal was "an error".

The top lawyer at Swiss drugmaker Novartis resigned over a $1.2 million contract he co-signed with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, saying the payments were an "error".

The announcement came after Novartis was dragged into the scandal over Cohen's payment of $130,000 to USA adult film actor Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election. Writing to Narasimhan on Friday, Wyden demanded detailed answers about the Cohen agreement, including who at Novartis had approved it and what the company had expected in return for its $1.2m payment. Novartis stock, which trades through American Depositary Receipts on the New York Stock Exchange, has moved less 1% since news of the payments broke.

The company said it met with Cohen only once - in March 2017.

But after Jimenez's people sat down with Cohen individually for the first time, "it was clear that he oversold his abilities", the former CEO said.

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Jimenez said he had wanted to terminate the 12-month deal with Essential Communications as soon as he realised this was the case but decided against doing so because of potential legal costs involved - a decision he now considers a "mistake".

Novartis has denied it was trying to gain access to Trump via payments to a firm controlled by Michael Cohen.

Public Citizen, a liberal government watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Justice Department and officials on Capitol Hill earlier this week, asking them to look into whether Cohen violated FARA or the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the US lobbying law, which is overseen by House and Senate record-keeping offices.

After the election, drug companies proactively sought to develop policy proposals amid a commitment to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Jimenez said.

"Our new executive team and I have a deep commitment to ensure we always operate with the highest integrity and sound judgment and will work hard to rebuild lasting trust with society", said Narasimhan in a separate statement.

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.

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