Novartis

Novartis is a sophisticated $50B global pharmaceuticals giant that claims it hired the shell company of Donald Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen to “get out ahead” in understanding the new administration’s healthcare agenda. That’s pretty laughable.

Candidate and then president Trump had no healthcare program, other than to repeal ObamaCare and to replace it with a “big beautiful” plan—not to be confused with his big beautiful wall on the southern border.

Politico reported March 13, 2017, that Trump and his advisers talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare and made an array of blanket statements about what it would entail for nearly two years. 

The emperor though had no clothes. Once in office, Trump adopted the House-produced American Health Care Act.

Why Switzerland-based Novartis thought Cohen had some special insights into healthcare when Trump himself didn’t have a clue is a real head-scratcher.

Novartis retained the services of Cohen’s Essential Consultants—more aptly named Essential Consultant since it is comprised of one person—following Trump’s January 2017 inauguration.

After a single meeting, Novartis group general counsel Felix Ehrat decided that Cohen knew nothing about healthcare policy, ObamaCare and Medicare. 

Yet Novartis continued to pay Essential Consultants $100K per-month until the contract expired in February. The company said it did so to avoid costly litigation connected with breaking the agreement. Right.

In announcing his early retirement today, Ehrat admitted paying Cohen was an error and took personal responsibility for his mistake. Kudos.

He’s sadly mistaken though in thinking that his resignation will “bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”

It should be just the beginning. 

The Financial Times reported May 14 that Swiss prosecutors have expressed concern over Novartis' payment to Essential Consultants. The country’s attorney general has been in touch with prosecutors in Novartis’ headquarters city of Basel, though a criminal probe has not been opened.

Congress and federal law enforcement should probe the Novartis payment and AT&T’s foolish $600K outlay for Cohen’s advice on its $85B Time-Warner merger. Is the guy a healthcare, antitrust, telecommunications wunderkind?

The Trump Organization via its Trump International Hotel in DC and shady real estate deal in Indonesia with a Chinese government-owned partner is using the White House as its piggy bank.

It appears that Trump cronies want in on the action (before it is too late) and corporations stand ready to play with them.

Unless checked by investigators, the Trump White House may set the gold standard for corruption in Washington.