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Novartis Says General Counsel to Retire Over Cohen Payments

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Novartis’s top lawyer is retiring from the company over payments made by the pharmaceutical giant to President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael D. Cohen, the Swiss drugmaker said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Novartis said that Felix R. Ehrat, the group general counsel, will be replaced by Shannon Thyme Klinger, who is currently the company’s top ethics officer, at the beginning of June. Mr. Ehrat was stepping down “in the context of discussions surrounding Novartis’s former agreement with Essential Consultants, owned by Michael Cohen,” Novartis said.

“Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” Mr. Ehrat said. “As a cosignatory with our former C.E.O., I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”

Mr. Ehrat, a practicing lawyer in Switzerland, has been the group general counsel at Novartis since 2011.

Novartis and the telecommunications company AT&T met with and made payments to Mr. Cohen in an effort to win insights into Mr. Trump’s thinking and establish ties to his administration. Novartis in particular was likely to be affected by Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn former President Barack Obama’s health care program, which has major consequences for the pharmaceutical industry.

The drugmaker said this month that it had soon realized Mr. Cohen would not be able to deliver on his promises, but it had still paid him $1.2 million for a one-year contract that ended in February.


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