Novartis GC Ehrat steps down over 'error' in Trump lawyer agreement

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The top lawyer at Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis stepped down on Wednesday following revelations that the company made payments to President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels or knowing anything about that payment but his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged the USA president had in fact reimbursed Cohen for the payoff.

The Novartis ouster comes as AT&T forced its top Washington, D.C. executive into retirement last week, following fallout from revelations that the telecom giant paid Cohen $600,000 a year ago.

Over the course of a year, Novartis paid Cohen $100,000 a month to gain insight into the Trump administration's health policy-making plans, namely its efforts related to the Affordable Care Act.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team also reached out to Novartis last November over its contract with Essential. Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has called the transactions part of a "pay-to-play scheme" and initiated an investigation.

A statement from Novartis said Ehrat was retiring because of questions in the United States about the company's former agreement with Essential Consultants, which is owned by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

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

Novartis has sought to distance Narasimhan from the contract, saying he had nothing to do with it.

This is the latest in a string of reputation blows to the company, which has also faced allegations bribery in Greece and South Korea and data-tampering in Japan.

Novartis shareholders have urged Narasimhan and other executives to exert more "moral influence" over perceived ethical shortcomings that Jimenez in 2016 blamed on a "results-oriented" sales culture and some bad actors.

On May 16, Novartis's general counsel Feliz R. Ehrat apologised for making the deal.



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