Stormy Daniels’ lawyer: No­var­tis made $400K in 'sus­pi­cious' pay­ments to Trump at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen

Stormy Daniels’ at­tor­ney Michael Ave­nat­ti has out­lined a se­ries of “sus­pi­cious fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions” in­volv­ing close to $400,000 in pay­ments No­var­tis made to the ac­count of Es­sen­tial Con­sul­tants, which was ear­li­er used by Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen to pay $130,000 to the adult film ac­tress to keep her silent about al­le­ga­tions of an af­fair with the pres­i­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, No­var­tis $NVS made four wire pay­ments of $99,980 each, just un­der the $100,000 mark, which Ave­nat­ti not­ed be­gan last fall and were wrapped in ear­ly Jan­u­ary of this year, just weeks be­fore soon-to-be CEO Vas Narasimhan met with Trump in Davos. [This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed with new in­for­ma­tion here: No­var­tis now says that it paid Co­hen’s com­pa­ny $1.2M]

A spokesper­son for No­var­tis re­spond­ed to a query I sent Tues­day night, say­ing: “Still chas­ing af­ter this – but want to clar­i­fy for your in­for­ma­tion that any agree­ments with Es­sen­tial Con­sul­tants were en­tered be­fore our cur­rent CEO tak­ing of­fice in Feb­ru­ary of this year and have ex­pired.” Lat­er, the phar­ma gi­ant tried to put some ad­di­tion­al dis­tance be­tween Narasimhan and the pay­ments, which they said in­volved “health­care pol­i­cy mat­ters.”

Who­ev­er drove the deal at No­var­tis, get­ting swept up in the Daniels scan­dal at the height of the me­dia tem­pest — days ahead of a ma­jor pol­i­cy ini­tia­tive on drug pric­ing by Trump — is ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly em­bar­rass­ing for the Swiss com­pa­ny, which still has plen­ty of ex­plain­ing to do.

The bomb­shell in the re­port spot­light­ed $500,000 paid by Russ­ian oli­garch Vik­tor Vek­sel­berg, with close ties to Rus­sia’s au­thor­i­tar­i­an leader Vladimir Putin, af­ter the elec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Ave­nat­ti, that mon­ey could have been used to re­pay Co­hen for the hush mon­ey he paid Daniels. An­oth­er $200,000 came from AT&T, which has con­firmed the pay­ments to re­porters cov­er­ing the sto­ry, say­ing it paid for “in­sights in­to un­der­stand­ing the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.” Ko­rea Aero­space In­dus­tries paid $150,000.

“Mr.  Vek­sel­berg  and  his  cousin  Mr.  An­drew  In­trater  rout­ed  eight  pay­ments  to  Mr.  Co­hen  through  a  com­pa­ny  named  Colum­bus  No­va  LLC  (“Colum­bus”)  be­gin­ning  in  Jan­u­ary  2017  and  con­tin­u­ing  un­til  at  least  Au­gust  2017,” states Ave­nat­ti’s re­port.

“Al­so  in­clud­ed  in  these  sus­pi­cious  fi­nan­cial  trans­ac­tions  are  four  pay­ments  in  late  2017  and  ear­ly  2018  to­tal­ing  $399,920  made  by  glob­al  phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal  gi­ant  No­var­tis  di­rect­ly  to  Es­sen­tial  in  four  sep­a­rate  trans­ac­tions  of  $99,980  each  (just  be­low  $100,000).

“Fol­low­ing  these  pay­ments,  re­ports  sur­faced  that  Mr.  Trump  took  a din­ner  meet­ing  with the  in­com­ing  CEO  of  No­var­tis be­fore  Mr.  Trump’s  speech at  the  World  Eco­nom­ic  Fo­rum  in  Davos,  Switzer­land  in  late  Jan­u­ary  2018.”

Ave­nat­ti in­clud­ed a link to a Fier­cePhar­ma sto­ry on the group of ex­ec­u­tives meet­ing with Trump for din­ner in Davos.

Overnight, No­var­tis ex­ecs scram­bled to cir­cle the wag­ons around their CEO, con­firm­ing the pay­ments but in­sist­ing Narasimhan was nev­er in­volved in the “arrange­ment.” Their state­ment:

In Feb­ru­ary 2017, No­var­tis en­tered in­to a one year agree­ment with Es­sen­tial Con­sul­tants short­ly af­ter the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump fo­cused on US health­care pol­i­cy mat­ters. The terms were con­sis­tent with the mar­ket. The agree­ment ex­pired in Feb­ru­ary 2018.

As al­ready stat­ed, the en­gage­ment of Es­sen­tial Con­sul­tants pre­dat­ed Vas Narasimhan be­com­ing No­var­tis CEO. Dr. Narasimhan had no in­volve­ment what­so­ev­er with this arrange­ment.

No­var­tis was con­tact­ed in No­vem­ber 2017 by lawyers from the Spe­cial Coun­sel’s of­fice re­gard­ing the com­pa­ny’s agree­ment with Es­sen­tial Con­sul­tants. No­var­tis co­op­er­at­ed ful­ly with the Spe­cial Coun­sel’s of­fice and pro­vid­ed all the in­for­ma­tion re­quest­ed. No­var­tis con­sid­ers this mat­ter closed as to it­self and is not aware of any out­stand­ing ques­tions re­gard­ing the agree­ment.

Vas Narasimhan may have been still the in­com­ing CEO at No­var­tis at that point in late Jan­u­ary, but he had di­rect­ed the de­vel­op­ment ef­fort at the phar­ma gi­ant for sev­er­al years and had been tapped for the CEO’s job months be­fore his meet­ing with Trump, along with a large group of ex­ec­u­tives. He took the CEO job at the be­gin­ning of Feb­ru­ary as CEO Joe Jimenez stepped down.

This al­so isn’t No­var­tis’ first in­volve­ment in a cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A lit­tle more than a month ago the com­pa­ny agreed to pay a fine of $25 mil­lion to the SEC af­ter com­pa­ny reps were ac­cused of of­fer­ing doc­tors in Chi­na lav­ish en­ter­tain­ment in ex­change for boost­ing the use of No­var­tis’ drugs.

No­var­tis and the phar­ma in­dus­try in gen­er­al have been step­ping up their pres­ence in Wash­ing­ton DC, in­ten­si­fy­ing lob­by­ing ef­forts as Trump and his top of­fi­cials in health­care fo­cus on a pledge to dra­mat­i­cal­ly low­er drug prices in the US. Trump is ex­pect­ed to give a speech on that very top­ic this Fri­day. I fol­lowed up with some more ques­tions for No­var­tis, but haven’t heard back.

Ave­nat­ti, mean­while, took to Twit­ter to call out all the com­pa­nies in­volved in con­tribut­ing to a “slush fund.”

https://twit­ter.com/MichaelAve­nat­ti/sta­tus/994156631440216069

Im­age: Michael Ave­nat­ti Shut­ter­stock

John Hood [file photo]

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

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On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

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Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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