A Swiss pharmaceutical giant that paid President Trump’s personal attorney nearly $400,000 was questioned last year by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the company said Wednesday.
Novartis paid Michael Cohen’s Essential Consulting hundreds of thousands of dollars from late 2017 to early 2018 as part of a one-year contract that expired in February.
The contract called for monthly payments of $100,000 each, though wire transfers slightly reduced those amounts, Novartis said.
The drugmaker, which makes Ritalin, Lamisil and other popular drugs, said Cohen’s work was “focused on US healthcare policy matters,” according to USA Today.
In January, days after Novartis made its final payment to Essential, Trump dined with business leaders — including Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan — in Switzerland during the World Economic Forum.
The dinner also included Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and Nestle CEO Mark Schneider.
There is no evidence that Cohen helped arrange that meeting, USA Today said.
Novartis said Narasimhan was promoted to CEO Feb. 1 – and had nothing to do with the deal. The arrangement was made under former CEO Joe Jimenez.
“The engagement of Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming Novartis CEO. Dr. Narasimhan had no involvement whatsoever with this arrangement,” a Novartis spokeswoman told Business Insider.
Novartis said it was contacted by Mueller’s office in November over its dealings with Cohen’s firm.
“Novartis cooperated fully with the special counsel’s office and provided all the information requested,” the company said in a statement. “Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.”
Michael Willi, a Novartis spokesman, told Reuters, “In hindsight, this must be seen as a mistake.” He did not elaborate.
On Tuesday, Michael Avenatti, an attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, named Novartis as one of the companies that made payments to Essential. Other firms included AT&T and Columbus Nova, which has ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Mueller also grilled Vekselberg over about $500,000 in alleged payments to Cohen, according to a report.
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