Novartis shares fall as top lawyer resigns amid Trump attorney agreement

Novartis general counsel steps down over drugmaker's $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen

President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen offered to help Novartis AG get a grip on the USA administration's position on key health-care issues before an agreement with the Swiss drugmaker quickly turned sour, former Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez said.

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

The company said that, after an initial meeting with Mr. Cohen last March, it concluded that he did not have the expertise they had hoped for and decided not to go forward with the arrangement.

Novartis had also paid Cohen into the account, which is the same LLC that Cohen used to pay $130,000 to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, allegedly for her silence about an affair she claims she had with Trump.

Novartis said its general counsel, Felix Ehrat, had chose to retire from his position in the "context of discussions" surrounding the payments to Cohen.

Shannon Thyme Klinger, now the chief ethics, risk and compliance officer at Novartis, will be appointed group general council, effective June 1. Novartis stock, which trades through American Depositary Receipts on the New York Stock Exchange, has moved less 1% since news of the payments broke.

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Jimenez said Cohen told his team he had left Trump's organisation and had stopped working for the president before pitching for business with Novartis.

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.

Telecoms giant AT&T, which has acknowledged paying about $600,000 to Cohen and was also named by Daniels' lawyer, has also said it was a "big mistake" to hire Trump's lawyer, even as it maintained its actions were legal.

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

According to Bloomberg, Jimenez's successor, Vas Narasimhan, has told Novartis's managers that the company needs to "rethink its approach to the use of consultants and lobbying firms". "We should have just definitively parted ways with this guy as soon as we knew he was not going to be a help". In addition to those who actually lobby the government, a person would have to register under FARA if they do any kind of public relations for a foreign client or act as a consultant on USA policy, as Cohen was hired to do.

A US probe into whistleblower allegations that the company offered kickbacks to doctors via fancy dinners shamming as educational events.

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