ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis (NOVN.S) General Counsel Felix Ehrat will leave the Swiss drugmaker over his role in a $1.2 million contract it struck with the lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, saying on Wednesday the pact was legal but an error.
The $100,000-per-month contract with Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants, the same firm used to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to hush up an alleged affair with Trump, has distracted Novartis’s efforts to improve its image after a series of bribery scandals.
Trump has denied the affair. Novartis ended the contract this year.
U.S. lawmakers have demanded Novartis as well as AT&T (T.N), which also made payments to Cohen’s firm, provide details about their contracts. Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has called the transactions part of a “pay-to-play scheme” and initiated an investigation.
In a company statement ahead of an investor day on Wednesday, Ehrat acknowledged he signed the contract along with former Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez, who stepped down on Feb. 1 and was replaced by Vas Narasimhan.
“Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” Ehrat said. “As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”
Novartis has sought to distance Narasimhan from the contract, saying he had nothing to do with it.
“We also have made mistakes recently and the world rightly