Novartis Paid Cohen $1.2 Million For Work It Says He Was ‘Unable’ To Do

SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP

The pharmaceutical company Novartis acknowledged Wednesday that it paid Trump fixer Michael Cohen more than $1 million starting last year and that the company has cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators.

“In February 2017, shortly after the election of President Trump, Novartis entered into a one year agreement with Essential Consultants,” Novartis said in a statement Wednesday, it’s second statement regarding its agreement with Cohen. “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.”

USA Today, reporting on the initial statement Novartis made Tuesday, said Novartis “paid Trump attorney Michael Cohen nearly $400,000 from late 2017 to early 2018.”

“The agreement was for a term of one year, and paid Essential Consultants 100,000 USD per month,” Novartis said in its second statement.

Novartis said that it had determined after first meeting Cohen in March of last year that Cohen and his shell company, 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.”

But, the statement continued, “[a]s 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.”

“In terms of the Special Counsel’s office, Novartis was contacted in November 2017 regarding the company’s agreement with Essential Consultants,” the statement added later. “Novartis cooperated fully with the Special Counsel’s office and provided all the information requested.

Novartis is one of several companies, along with AT&T, Korea Aerospace Industries and the investment firm Columbus Nova, to reveal that they paid Cohen large sums following the election. The payments line up with some claims in an unsourced document released Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels. That document cited “four payments in late 2017 and early 2018 totaling $399,920” from Novartis to Essential Consultants.

Columbus Nova is the American affiliate of Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova Group. Vekselberg was reportedly questioned by Mueller’s team at a New York area airport earlier this year over the payments to Cohen. His cousin, the American head of Columbus Nova, was also reportedly questioned, CNN reported Tuesday.

Vekselberg attended Trump’s inauguration and was on a list of Russian oligarchs facing additional sanctions by the Trump administration last month.

CNBC posted the text of Novartis’ second statement Wednesday:

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.

 This post has been updated. 
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Managing Editor:
Senior News Editor:
Assistant Editor:
Editor at Large:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Political Correspondent:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Front Page Editor:
Social Media Editor:
Editor for Prime & Special Projects:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Designer: