Top lawyer at Novartis to step down amid Michael Cohen scandal

Felix Ehrat, the top lawyer at Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, has decided to step down from his role over the drugmaker's $1.2 million payment to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen for healthcare policy lobbying services.

Mr. Ehrat, who has been Novartis' group general counsel since 2011, made the decision to retire "in the context of discussions" surrounding the payment to President Trump's personal lawyer.

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error. As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end," Mr. Ehrat said in a statement.

Novartis has faced public outrage in recent weeks over its payment to Essential Consultants, a company founded by Mr. Cohen in 2016. According to earlier reports, Essential Consultants reached out to Novartis in February 2017, promising senior officials access to President Trump if they contracted with their company. Novartis agreed to a $100,000 per month contract for one-year with Essentials Consultants.  

Shannon Thyme Klinger, currently the chief ethics, risk and compliance officer at Novartis, will be appointed group general council, effective June 1.

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