FTC settles price-fixing lawsuit
The Federal Trade Commission settled price-fixing allegations with two San Diego County anesthesiology groups, alleging that they fixed fees and terms for on-call contracts with 414-bed Grossmont Hospital, La Mesa, Calif., between February 2001 and May 2002. The groups, 180-physician Anesthesia Service Medical Group and 10-physician Grossmont Anesthesia Services Medical Group, agreed to stop the anticompetitive agreements and accepted a 20-year consent order barring them from jointly negotiating or fixing fees, dealing or refusing to deal with payers or providers, and threatening to reduce anesthesia services. The groups make up about 75% of the hospital's anesthesiologists. "We agreed to settle because we didn't feel this was worthy of litigating," said ASMG's attorney, Dan Yakoubian. The FTC has finalized at least six other price-fixing settlements with physician groups in the past 18 months.
Neoforma loses an auditor
Deloitte & Touche resigned as the independent auditor for Neoforma, San Jose, Calif., the e-commerce partner of Novation. Neoforma said it has been conducting interviews for a new auditor for about two weeks, since filing its more recent quarterly form with the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, the company said it was "not aware of any disagreement" with Deloitte on accounting matters. Neoforma said it expects to hire a new auditor shortly. Deloitte had served as the company's auditor since June 2002, replacing Arthur Andersen. Shortly after Deloitte came on board, Neoforma announced that it would have to restate financial results as far back as two years because of accounting principles applied under Arthur Andersen.
Buyers for HealthSouth
Businessman and venture capitalist Daryl Harms is heading an effort to buy HealthSouth Corp. and take it private, according to a spokeswoman at Harms' venture capital firm, Masada Resources Group, Birmingham, Ala., which would lead the buyout. Harms will not make an offer until PricewaterhouseCoopers completes an audit to determine the embattled rehabilitation chain's cash flow and position, the spokeswoman said. HealthSouth founder and former Chief Executive Officer Richard Scrushy's longtime lawyer, Donald Watkins, also has been organizing investors to purchase HealthSouth, although the status of his effort was unknown at deadline.