- The Swiss attorney general's office will not initiate criminal proceedings against Novartis over the $1.2 million the pharma paid a company controlled by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
- "Following a detailed analysis, the OAG concluded that there was insufficient suspicion to justify opening criminal proceedings," the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland wrote in an emailed statement.
- According to the statement, the office received a criminal complaint alleging unidentified Novartis employees bribed foreign officials. After examining the claim, however, Swiss prosecutors concluded there was not enough suspicion of bribery to merit launching a criminal investigation.
The decision by Swiss prosecutors offers Novartis some respite from the scrutiny that has dogged the company after the deal with Cohen came to light. A Novartis spokesperson could not be reached for comment on the latest development.
In May, Novartis admitted it had entered into a one-year contact with an apparent shell company called Essential Consultants, paying the Cohen-controlled firm $100,000 per month between February 2017 and February 2018. According to the drugmaker, the deal was made to gain insight into how the new administration would approach healthcare policy, including the Affordable Care Act.
Not only was Cohen unable to deliver the sought-after advice, but recent revelations of the agreement led to accusations Novartis paid money to gain favorable treatment by the U.S. government.
A letter from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, for example, noted the deal was in place while Novartis was negotiating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on reimbursement for its CAR-T cancer therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel).
Novartis, however, maintains that it did not engage with Cohen after an initial meeting with the Trump insider in March.
Even so, fallout over the agreement led Felix Ehrat, Novartis' top lawyer, to step down from his post in mid-May. A statement from him acknowledged he considered the deal to be "a mistake," albeit one legally in order.
The Swiss attorney general became involved in the matter after receiving the criminal complaint. But an examination found insufficient suspicion of bribery by Novartis of either foreign government officials or private individuals.
The office did note in an emailed statement, however, that " Swiss law does not recognise an offence of trading in influence, whether within Switzerland or internationally."