Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has found itself caught up in the strange story unfolding around Michael Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants.
Documentation first revealed by attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels, shows that Novartis Investment SARL made four payments of $99,980 to Essential Consultants – the same firm Cohen used to pay Daniels $130,000 in hush money.
In a statement sent to us, Novartis says it entered into a one-year agreement with Essential Consultants in February 2017, “shortly after the election of President Trump focused on U.S. healthcare policy matters. The terms were consistent with the market. The agreement expired in February 2018.”
The first Novartis payment was purportedly made on Oct. 5, 2017, while the subsequent payments followed in successive months — Nov. 3, 2017, Dec. 1, 2017, and Jan. 5, 2018, according to the documents.
Though no indications of impropriety have been reported, Novartis has a history with running afoul of ethical and legal standards.
In the U.S., the drug maker is defending a long-running lawsuit that is being pressed by the federal government over allegations it provided doctors with paid speaking engagements, fancy meals, and alcohol in exchange for writing prescriptions for its drugs.
The case is being closely watched because the company has been accused of being a repeat offender. How so? In 2010, Novartis paid $422.5 million in penalties and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to resolve criminal allegations that it improperly promoted several medicines.
And last year, the Switzerland-based company was investigated in Greece concerning allegations it bribed politicians in an effort to increase sales made through public agencies.
In February 2018, the Athens public prosecutor’s office reportedly asked the U.S. Justice Department to assist its investigation. Although the Greek parliament effectively ended the probe recently, the episode caused Novartis substantial negative publicity much of last year. There is no evidence at this point, however, that these events were connected to the payments made to Essential Consultants.