Michael Cohen, the personal attorney and “fixer” for Donald Trump, appears to have collected $1.2 million last year from a multinational drug manufacturer now under investigation for allegedly bribing politicians in Greece, according to a report by the pharmaceutical industry news site STAT. Early in 2017, as Trump was preparing for his inauguration after winning the 2016 presidential election, Cohen “reached out” to the Swiss pharma giant Novartis, offering “access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him,” a Novartis employee told STAT.
Despite the fact that Cohen had no experience or education in the health care or pharmaceutical fields, the company quickly signed a contract with Cohen through his shell company, Essential Consultants LLC — the same company that only three months earlier Cohen had used to make a $130,000 “hush money” payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about a claimed sexual encounter with Trump.
The company inked the deal with Cohen and EC LLC in February of 2017, hoping that Cohen could “advise the company” about the incoming Trump administration’s planned changes to the Affordable Care Act, the nationwide health insurance program more commonly known as Obamacare. But according to a report by CNBC, Cohen almost immediately proved himself “unable” to help Novartis in any meaningful way.
Cohen was, and remains, a top fundraising official of the Republican National Committee during the time he was receiving the payments into his EC LLC account.
The revelation of the Novartis payments to Cohen came out of a document released by Michael Avenatti — the attorney for Daniels in her lawsuit against Cohen and Trump — which documented payments to Cohen and EC LLC not only from Novartis but from several other large corporations, including the telecom megalith AT&T, as well as a company owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Cohen has reportedly termed the document released by Avenatti “inaccurate,” but the facts about payments in the document have been confirmed by independent news organizations including the New York Times, and several of the companies that made the payments, including Novartis.
The drugmaker, perhaps best known for manufacturing the attention-deficit disorder drug Ritalin, said that even after its officials realized that Cohen could not provide any useful services, the company continued to send payments to his EC LLC anyway.
“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 company said in a statement.
Avenatti said that his findings showed four payments from Novartis to Cohen of $100,000 each, but the company said that it paid Trump’s “fixer” that six-figure sum each month for a year, which would be a total of $1.2 million in payments — even though Cohen did nothing for the company, Novartis itself said.
In the statement, the drugmaker also said that Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators had questioned Novartis officials about the payments to Cohen in 2017, and that the company had “cooperated fully.”
While Novartis claims that it received nothing in return for its $1.2 million investment in Cohen, who had promised access to Trump, the drugmaker is now under investigation in Greece for allegedly dispensing nearly $60 million in bribes to politicians — including two former prime ministers — in that country from 2006 to 2015, according to a report in The Guardian.
Current Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the Novartis bribery scandal “one of the biggest scandals in modern Greek history,” and the country’s government estimates that drug price-fixing connected to the alleged bribes cost the country almost $30 billion due to overpriced drugs.