Novartis AG's top lawyer became the first executive to take the fall for the controversial $1.2 million in payments he helped arrange to Donald Trump's attorney, as the drugmaker tries to contain the furor from last week's revelation.
Ehrat said he hopes his departure will "bring the public debate on this matter to an end", but that might not happen any time soon.
Following a meeting with Cohen, the company changed its mind, although Novartis was contractually obliged to pay Cohen the full $1.2m.
The payments became public knowledge after Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who is better known as Stormy Daniels, published details of an account used by Cohen to pay Clifford $130,000 so that she would keep quiet about her affair with the United States president.
Ehrat, Novartis's general counsel since 2011, had been expected to leave within the next 1-1/2 years, while Jimenez stepped down on February 1 and was replaced by Vas Narasimhan. Novartis said she had not been aware of the Cohen contact.
"After my team met with him individually, it was clear that he oversold his abilities", Jimenez told Bloomberg.
Novartis ended the $100,000-per-month contract, signed in early 2017 by Ehrat and former Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez, this year.
Last week, a top Senate Democrat opened an inquiry into the agreement between Novartis and Cohen, sending letters to Narasimhan and Cohen seeking financial information and a further accounting of the company's rationale for engaging the Trump insider.
Jimenez said in the interview that a "third party" had recommended Cohen to Novartis, declining to identify that person. It said it believed that Cohen could advise the company on the Trump administration's approach to healthcare policies, including the Affordable Care Act. At one point he recommended that the company should build a manufacturing site in the USA but Novartis never acted on any of his advice, the ex-CEO added.
Novartis shareholders have urged Narasimhan to exert more "moral influence" over perceived ethical shortcomings that Jimenez in 2016 blamed on a "results-oriented" sales culture and some bad actors.
Bloomberg separately reported that Novartis' new CEO Vas Narasimhan held a conference call with 5,000 managers to pass on the urgent message that the company needs to regain public trust and rethink the way it does business with consulting firms, lobbyists, and other groups.