The top lawyer at Novartis stepped down after it was revealed he signed a $1.2 million contract with President Trump's personal lawyer - more fallout from the payments companies made to Michael Cohen.
Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels or knowing anything about that payment but his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged the U.S. president had in fact reimbursed Cohen for the payoff.
"Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error. As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end", Ehrat, 60, said in a statement released Wednesday.
The $100,000-per-month contract with Trump attorney Michael Cohen's Essential Consulting, 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.
Both Ehrat and former chief executive Joe Jimenez signed the contract past year.
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing the adult-film star Stormy Daniels, alleged in May that a Novartis unit had paid Essential Consulting, a firm linked to Cohen, almost $400,000 in late 2017 and early 2018.
"Michael Cohen was somebody who was introduced to us, and he was unknown to us, but he was said to be somebody who could help", Jimenez told Bloomberg in an interview published Wednesday.
However, following its initial meeting with Cohen in March 2017, the company realised that he would be "unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated", but was unable to break the contract. The new Novartis chief executive, Vasant Narasimhan, a former R&D chief who succeeded Jimenez this past February, called the contract a "mistake", and quickly distanced himself by insisting he was not involved in retaining Cohen.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team also reached out to Novartis last November over its contract with Essential.