Novartis dumps general counsel over payments to Trump lawyer

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Novartis also announced Shannon Thyme Klinger will replace Ehrat on June 1.

The top lawyer at Novartis stepped down after it was revealed he signed a $1.2 million contract with President Trump's personal lawyer - more fallout from the payments companies made to Michael Cohen.

"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error". In an interview with Bloomberg, Jimenez said Cohen told him he had left Trump's organization and stopped working for the president before pitching for business with Novartis.

On 9 May, Novartis said it had signed a one-year contract for $100,000 a month with Cohen's firm in February 2017, seeking advice on the new administration's public health policy.

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

In a statement Novartis added that the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee have "the greatest respect" for Ehrat's decision to step down.

Novartis said in a statement at the time that the company concluded after a meeting with Cohen that he was "unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to United States healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further". At one point he recommended that the company should build a manufacturing site in the US but Novartis never acted on any of his advice, the ex-CEO added.

"Let me be absolutely clear: I never want Novartis to achieve our financial performance or objectives because we compromised on our ethical standards or our values-we must always choose our values", the CEO told investors, and promised to roll out a new guidance on how best to organize on integrity and compliance in the coming months.

Novartis has said that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, contacted them last November to inquire about the connection to Mr. Cohen, and that the company cooperated with the investigation and considers its role closed.

Ehrat's departure comes as the company kicks off an annual investor event at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.

Novartis CEO Narasimhan this week conducted a conference call with 5,000 managers in which he said the firm needed to re-examine its lobbying practices, Bloomberg said, citing a source close to the matter. The former CEO said he wanted to terminate the deal but ultimately decided that trying to end it would have been costlier than letting the agreement expire because of "almost certain litigation", he said.

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