Novartis dumps general counsel over payments to Trump lawyer

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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.

The one-year contract with Essential Consultants - signed in February 2017, shortly after Trump became president - saw Novartis agree to pay Cohen (pictured above) $100,000 (£74,000) per month.

Ehrat is to resign from the Basel-based pharma after revelations the firm paid $1.2 million to a company controlled by the U.S. president's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

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

Novartis changed CEOs in February, with Vas Narasimhan replacing former CEO Joe Jimenez.

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The announcement comes after Novartis was dragged into the scandal over Cohen's payment of $130,000 to US porn actress Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

AT&T last Friday ousted its top lobbyist, Bob Quinn, and the wireless carrier's top executive said it was a "big mistake" to pay Cohen more than $600,000 during 2017 for advice on a "wide range of issues", including its proposed merger with Time Warner.

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

"After my team met with him individually, it was clear that he oversold his abilities", Jimenez told Bloomberg.

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 USA -sanctioned, Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg. It said the payments continued because the contract could not have been terminated.

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