HCA’s dishonest IPO

U.S. hospital chain HCA must face class action over 2011 IPO

By Jonathan Stempel
Reuters, September 23, 2014

HCA Holdings Inc, one of the largest U.S. hospital chains, must face a shareholder class-action lawsuit accusing it of concealing revenue declines and its routine performance of unnecessary cardiac procedures prior to its $4.35 billion initial public offering in March 2011.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp in Nashville, Tennessee, rejected HCA's claim that the plaintiffs had missed "multiple opportunities" to learn more about the company before buying their shares, including from media reports, conference calls, and disclosures during the IPO road show.

Shareholders alleged that HCA, its directors, its former private equity owners and its investment banks concealed how the company was seeing adverse trends in Medicare revenue including cardiology, and Medicaid revenue per admission; and accounted improperly for a 2006 reorganization and a 2010 restructuring.

"Given defendants' alleged violation of the federal securities law and its impact on a large number of geographically dispersed investor(s), a class action is the superior vehicle for adjudication of the claims," Sharp wrote. "The alternative would be to have (potentially) thousands of individual actions, which is likely impractical for most investors, and which would risk burdening the judicial system."

The IPO had been the largest by a company owned by private equity firms. HCA had been taken private in 2006 by a group led by Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Merrill Lynch's private equity arm.

The case is Schuh et al v. HCA Holdings Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, No. 11-01033.



By Don McCanne, MD

The private insurers are not the only villains that are driving high health care costs in the United States. The private, investor-owned segment of the health care delivery system is also bringing us higher costs, often with inferior quality. A case in point is HCA - one of the nation’s largest investor-owned hospital chains.

HCA is already infamous for having set a record in paying a $1.7 billion settlement for Medicare fraud. This new allegation of fraud does not directly involve patients or taxpayers, rather it involves potential shareholders at the time of their 2011 initial public offering (IPO). The private owners at that time included the Frist family and some private equity firms, including Bain Capital.

The reason that this is important to those of us concerned about health care reform is that these people are so dishonest that they not only cheat patients and taxpayers, they also cheat their own shareholders!

When we expel the private insurers from our health care system, we need to expel the passive investors as well. HR 676 - the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, sponsored by John Conyers (now with 62 cosponsors) does both. It converts the health care delivery system to non-profit status, and it replaces private insurers with a single payer national health program.

HCA was founded by the family of Bill Frist, former leader of the U.S. Senate. The Medicare fraud case was initiated when Florida Governor Rick Scott was head of HCA. Bain Capital was co-founded by presidential candidate Mitt Romney. If we are going to achieve health care justice for all, the voters do have some responsibility here.