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

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan

Reuters

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

"Michael Cohen was somebody who was introduced to us, and he was unknown to us, but he was said to be somebody who could help", Jimenez told Bloomberg in an interview published Wednesday.

A "third party" recommended Cohen to Novartis, Jimenez said, declining to identify that person. 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.

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

Shannon Thyme Klinger, now chief ethics, risk and compliance officer, will replace Ehart as group general counsel, effective 1 June 2018.

"After my team met with him individually, it was clear that he oversold his abilities". It said the payments continued because the contract could not have been terminated. "We should have just definitively parted ways with this guy as soon as we knew he was not going to be a help".

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"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.

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

Novartis maintains its payments to Cohen were on market terms, and it considers closed a November 2017 inquiry from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the deal. They pointed to the fact Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan was one of a group of business leaders who dined with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. After the payments were exposed last week, Novartis has fought hard to distance Narasimhan from the scandal, insisting he was not involved in the contract. After an investigation led by Parliament, those allegations were handed off to prosecutors there.

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The case is under examination by the Greek and USA authorities. The agencies are questioning current and former senior executives of the Novartis eye unit, securities filings show. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end", Ehrat, 60, said in a statement released Wednesday.

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