UnitedHealth's Surgical Care Affiliates indicted on allegations of collusion

Surgical Care Affiliates, which is part of UnitedHealth Group's Optum division, is facing charges of collusion for allegedly agreeing with competitors to not poach senior-level employees, the Department of Justice said Jan. 7.  

The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas at the Dallas division. A federal grand jury charged SCA and its related entities, which own and operate outpatient medical care centers, with entering and engaging in conspiracies with other healthcare companies to suppress competition between them for the services of senior-level employees. 

The indictment alleges that from May 2010 to October 2017, SCA conspired with a Texas company to allocate senior-level executives by agreeing to not solicit each other's executives, violating the Sherman Act. Separately, the indictment accuses SCA of conspiring with a Colorado company on a similar non-solicitation agreement from February 2012 to July 2017.

In an email statement to Becker's Hospital Review, SCA said, "The position taken by the government in this matter represents a novel application of the antitrust laws as they relate to employee recruitment, for which there is no precedent or foundation. This matter involves alleged conduct seven years before UnitedHealth Group acquired SCA and does not involve any SCA ambulatory surgery centers, their joint owners, physician partners, current leadership or any other UnitedHealth Group companies. SCA disagrees with the government's position, and will vigorously defend itself against these unjustified allegations."

The charges are the first from the department's antitrust division in its ongoing investigation into employee allocation agreements. Violators of the Sherman Act can face a maximum $100 million fine, or twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if the amount is greater than the maximum. 

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