Healthcare giant Novartis says it signed a $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen's consulting firm, took one meeting, and realised he couldn't help them

  • Pharmaceutical giant Novartis is among the companies listed in paying Essential Consulting, a firm linked to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s lawyer.
  • Novartis signed a $US100,000 a month contract with Cohen’s firm in February 2017. The contract lasted for 12 months. But after one meeting with Cohen, Novartis decided not to engage further.
  • “Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters,” the company said in a statement.
  • Novartis said it had been contacted by lawyers who were part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and “considers this matter closed.”

Multinational pharmaceutical giant Novartis was among the corporations that made payments to Essential Consulting, a firm linked to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s lawyer.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing the adult-film star Stormy Daniels, alleged that a Novartis unit had paid Essential nearly $US400,000 in late 2017 and early 2018. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said she was paid $US130,000 by Cohen to stay quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

The payments were part of a yearlong contract Novartis had with Essential, in which the pharma company paid the consulting firm $US100,000 a month. The contract, which began in February 2017, “focused on US healthcare policy matters” and that the agreement expired in February 2018.

“With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act,” Novartis said in a statement to Business Insider. The company met with Cohen only once – in March 2017.

“Following this initial meeting, Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants 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,” Novartis said.

Novartis changed CEOs in February, with Vas Narasimhan replacing former CEO Joe Jimenez. Narasimhan was among the European executives Trump had dinner with in January at Davos, though Novartis said the current CEO was “in no way involved with this agreement.”

Novartis, whose headquarters are in Switzerland, has a big presence in the US. The company spent $US8.7 million in 2017 lobbying the US government.

Here’s the full updated statement from Novartis:

“In February 2017, shortly after the election of President Trump, Novartis entered into a one year agreement with Essential Consultants. With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act. The agreement was for a term of one year, and paid Essential Consultants 100,000 USD per month. In March 2017, Novartis had its first meeting with Michael Cohen under this agreement. Following this initial meeting, Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants 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. As the contract unfortunately could only be terminated for cause, payments continued to be made until the contract expired by its own terms in February 2018.

“The engagement of Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming Novartis CEO and he was in no way involved with this agreement. Contrary to recent media reports, this agreement was also in no way related to the group dinner Dr. Narasimhan had at the World Economic Forum in Davos with President Trump and 15 Europe based industry leaders. Suggestions to the contrary clearly misrepresent the facts and can only be intended to further personal or political agendas as to which Novartis should not be a part.

In terms of the Special Counsel’s office, Novartis was contacted in November 2017 regarding the company’s agreement with Essential Consultants. Novartis cooperated fully with the Special Counsel’s office and provided all the information requested. Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.”

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