Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Novartis Top Lawyer Resigns Over Cohen Payments, Calls Contract an 'Error'

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Kayla Schwartz | 16 May, 2018, 21:49

Novartis announced today that Felix R. Ehrat, Group General Counsel of Novartis, has chose to retire from the company.

Last week, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti wrote on Twitter that Novartis and US telecoms giant AT&T had used the services of Cohen's firm Essential Consultants - the same company used to make the payment to Daniels.

Jimenez, who handed the reins to Narasimhan this year, said the contract with Cohen was negotiated with the company's legal team after the two sides made contact.

Ehrat said he hopes his departure will "bring the public debate on this matter to an end", but that might not happen any time soon. Ethics experts say that Cohen may have run afoul of foreign lobbying laws if it was the Swiss parent corporation - Novartis AG - and not the US subsidiary that held the contract or paid him.

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

Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, told NBC last week that Novartis was among several firms that paid large sums of money to a company controlled by Cohen.

Novartis executives said in the statement that they have "the greatest respect" for Ehrat's decision to step down.

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Novartis also announced Shannon Thyme Klinger will replace Ehrat on June 1. Novartis said she had not been aware of the Cohen contact.

"There will always be a way around the rule, whereas if you ask the question, 'Is this the right thing to do, are you comfortable with this being on the front page of the newspaper?'. that's going to help get us to a better place".

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.

A US probe into whistleblower allegations that the company offered kickbacks to doctors via fancy dinners shamming as educational events. 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 US policy, as Cohen was hired to do.

Klinger cited changes to bonus schemes for Novartis's drug sales force that are meant to avoid potential for corruption.

Narasimhan highlighted a dozen medicines in its pipeline that Novartis believes have $1-billion-plus annual sales potential, placing it on track to grow sales and expand profit margins through 2022.

But Novartis is unlikely to mimic deals such as Takeda's 4502.T $62 billion takeover of Shire which are transforming the pharmaceuticals industry, Chief Financial Officer Harry Kirsch said.

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