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

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The move comes after Novartis was dragged into the scandal surrounding the actions of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and whether the president attempted to cover up an alleged affair with the former porn star Stormy Daniels in 2006.

Novartis' general counsel Felix Ehart has announced that he will resign after revelations that he was a co-signatory on a controversial contract with USA president Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

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

The top lawyer at Swiss drugmaker Novartis resigned over a $1.2 million contract he co-signed with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, saying the payments were an "error".

The announcement comes after Novartis was dragged into the scandal over Cohen's payment of $130,000 to USA porn actress Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

Ehrat said that he is stepping down to take "personal responsibility" for the matter, and pointed out that the agreement had been co-signed by former CEO Joe Jimenez.

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Ehrat's statement on Wednesday says he was a co-signatory on the contract with Cohen, along with the then-CEO of Novartis AG, who retired at the beginning of this year. Novartis should have done more due diligence, he said.

Novartis's payments to Cohen have reportedly aroused the interest of Swiss public prosecutors, although there are now no criminal proceedings underway.

Apart from AT&T and Novartis, Cohen was also paid by Korea Aerospace Industries and Columbus Nova, a NY investment firm whose biggest client is Renova Group, a conglomerate owned by USA -sanctioned, Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg. It said it believed that Cohen could advise the company on the Trump administration's approach to healthcare policies, including the Affordable Care Act. He said the company continued to pay him because it feared litigation over a premature termination of the agreement. "We should have just definitively parted ways with this guy as soon as we knew he was not going to be a help".

Jimenez said Cohen told his team he had left Trump's organisation and had stopped working for the president before pitching for business with Novartis. At one point he recommended that the company should build a manufacturing site in the USA but Novartis never acted on any of his advice, the ex-CEO added.

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

Novartis asserts it received nothing from Cohen in exchange for the payments, yet the company's timeline leaves questions for skeptics.

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