GENEVA (AP) — Novartis said Wednesday its top lawyer is retiring over the Swiss pharmaceutical company’s relationship with a firm owned by U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
The Basel-based drugs company said general counsel Felix Ehrat is stepping down after about seven years in post “in the context of discussions surrounding Novartis’ former agreement with Essential Consultants, owned by Michael Cohen.”
“Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” Ehrat said in a Novartis statement, adding that he took “personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”
Company spokesman Eric Althoff said last week that Novartis had entered into a one-year agreement with Essential Consultants in February 2017 — a month after Trump’s inauguration — to focus on health care policy.
Althoff said Novartis had hired Cohen for $100,000 per month, but determined after a single meeting with him that he wouldn’t be of use. The company still paid out the $1.2 million contract.
Novartis said Shannon Thyme Klinger, who graduated from the University of North Carolina law school and who is now the company’s ethics, risk and compliance officer, will take over from Ehrat as general counsel on June 1.