05.11.18

Novartis CEO Says Drugmaker’s Deal With Trump Lawyer Was a “Mistake”

Source: FirstWord

In an internal email sent to employees, Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan apologized for the $1.2-million agreement the company made with President Donald Trump’s private lawyer Michael Cohen early last year in a bid to gain insight into US healthcare policy under the new administration.

“We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticised by a world that expects more from us,” Mr. Narasimhan said.

Novartis, the parent company of Alcon, stated earlier this week that it had entered into a 1-year contract in February 2017 with Cohen through his company Essential Consultants for guidance “as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act.”

The drugmaker noted that after meeting with Mr. Cohen soon after, it became clear that he and his firm “would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further.”

The company explained that as the contract could only be terminated for cause, it was obligated to make monthly payments of $100,000 until the contract expired this past February. The drugmaker disclosed earlier this week that it did not renew the contract.

Novartis also noted that the deal predated Mr. Narasimhan becoming CEO “and he was in no way involved with this agreement.” Mr. Narasimhan assumed the post of CEO at the end of January, replacing former chief executive Joe Jimenez.

Meanwhile, a senior Novartis official has alleged that Mr. Cohen contacted the drugmaker after Trump’s 2016 election, “promising access” to the incoming administration. Novartis acknowledged that it was contacted by investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller about the deal in November last year, adding that the company has “cooperated fully with the special counsel’s office and provided all the information requested.”

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