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 President Trump’s attorney, as the drugmaker tries to contain the furor from last week’s revelation.
“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.”
Novartis is among a handful of companies that have been scrambling to explain why they made payments to Cohen’s firm, Essential Consultants LLC. AT&T Inc., which paid the firm $600,000, forced out veteran lobbyist and attorney Robert Quinn as CEO Randall Stephenson called the hiring of Trump’s lawyer a “big mistake” and said that its vetting process had failed.
Novartis has said it quickly determined that Cohen’s firm was unable to provide the services it anticipated and after a single early-2017 meeting decided not to engage further. Still, the drugmaker was contractually bound to keep making monthly payments of $100,000 for a year. Novartis has said that Narasimhan had no involvement.
Jimenez said in the interview that a “third party” had recommended Cohen to Novartis, declining to identify that person. Novartis should have done more due diligence and “definitively parted ways” with Cohen as soon as it knew he wouldn’t be able to help, the former CEO said.