Novartis AG’s top lawyer became the first executive to take the fall for the controversial $1.2 million in payments he helped arrange to Donald Trump’s attorney, as the drugmaker tries to contain the furor from last week’s revelation.
Felix Ehrat, who along with former Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez signed the agreement with a consulting firm led by lawyer Michael Cohen, will step down after seven years as Novartis’s general counsel, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said on Wednesday in a statement. In an interview with Bloomberg, Jimenez said Cohen told him he had left Trump’s organisation and stopped working for the president before pitching for business with Novartis.
Novartis’s new CEO Vas Narasi-mhan has been grappling with the fallout over the contract, which drew the drugmaker into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of suspe-
cted Russian meddling in the US presidential election.
Narasimhan, who’s meeting with investors on Wednesday in Basel, conducted a conference call for 5,000 managers in which he said the company needs to rebuild trust and rethink its approach to the use of consultants and lobbying firms, according to a person familiar with the situation. “Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” Ehrat said in the statement. “As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”