Zombies vs Vampires — legal battle between corrupt medical labs

Right now a dead, bankrupt and corrupt laboratory company is suing an active, morally bankrupt lab company. No matter who eventually wins the court battle all of us — patients, Medicare, insurance companies, not to mention our entire health and legal systems — will lose.

Health Diagnostics Laboratory is the zombie lab company. After raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in a few short years for its owners and others, HDL went out of business last year. The reason: the company’s business model was illegal and unethical.

The company bribed doctors to order unnecessary tests — lots of unnecessary tests. Then it told patients that they would not be billed for the tests. This is also illegal.

But in its heyday the company reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from Medicare and insurance companies.

True Health Diagnostics is the vampire lab company. When HDL went out of business this new company bought its remaining assets and adopted its business model of bribing doctors to order their tests and not collecting the patients’ portion of the bill. (Despite the company’s denials, True Health appears to have close connections with at least some of the major figures involved with HDL.)

Late last year the surviving legal remnant of HDL began efforts to collect from patients on some of the bills on which the company had promised, in writing, never to collect…

Patients panicked when they suddenly found themselves faced with thousands of dollars in bills. Naturally many of them called their doctors to complain, and many of the doctors complained to their True Health sales reps, since in many cases this was the same person.

True Health in turn panicked. It threatened to sue HDL. If doctors and patients believed that there was even a small chance that patients would be held responsible for thousands of dollars for their tests then their entire sleazy business model would topple like a house of cards. So the company sent letters to doctors, telling the doctors to tell their patients to ignore the letters.

This did not sit well with HDL, which then sued True Health…

I have no idea how the legal issues here will be resolved. I don’t know if patients who were promised they would never receive a bill can be held responsible for those bills because those promises were illegal. This kind of situation is exactly why we have so many lawyers but so little justice.

But I do know this: the one thing missing in the battle of the zombie lab versus the vampire lab is justice.

The responsible figures — the HDL leaders, its salesmen, and, especially, the doctors who ordered and profited from all these unnecessary tests — are not being held responsible. Many of the same doctors and salesman who participated in the earlier HDL scheme are now participating in the True Health scheme…

We’ll probably never know how many hundreds of millions of dollars were made by the HDL executives and salesmen and the doctors who participated in their scheme. And unless people start going to jail there will be no incentive to stop more schemes like this. Civil suits, by the government or by private insurance companies, will simply be viewed as the cost of doing business.

Gotta love self-regulating, self-policing crafts, trades, industries. Seems to me a great deal of what is involved here is plain and simple fraud. Some of it must have crossed state lines. If states won’t act responsibly – well, that’s why we have federal attorneys.

EU asks for protection against US/NSA data surveillance

The European Commission has called…for new protection for Europeans under United States’ law against misuse of personal data, in an attempt to keep in check the U.S. surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said she wanted Washington to follow through on its promise to give all EU citizens the right to sue in the United States if their data is misused. “I have … made clear that Europe expects to see the necessary legislative change in the U.S. sooner rather than later, and in any case before summer 2014,” she said.

Reding’s message was reinforced in a draft report obtained by Reuters that called for “very close attention by the EU” in monitoring data-exchange agreements given the “large-scale collection and processing of personal information under U.S. surveillance programs”.

The remarks underline a growing sense of unease in Europe at a delicate moment in transatlantic relations, when the globe’s two biggest economies seek a trade pact to deepen ties…

In the report, they highlighted the need for improving transparency in the ‘Safe Harbour’ scheme that allows companies in Europe who gather personal information about customers, for example, to send it to the United States…

We are an economic giant and we behave like a political midget,” said Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. “The Commission and the member states are extremely timid and soft. They are failing their citizens.”

“It’s not a legal question,” she said. “It’s about Europe behaving like a politically self-confident entity…”

The EU is preparing to establish new rules, regulations and protection of data for member-states. Though it talks about a “right to erasure” some critics feels the members of the Euro Parliament still have little understanding of where the world has come to with the advent of the World Wide Web.

Should we expect them to be more or less behind the times than Congress or the UK Parliament, eh?

Rupert Murdoch plans to charge for the Web, sue everyone!

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch suffered the indignity of seeing his global empire make a huge financial loss yesterday and promptly pledged to shake up the newspaper industry by introducing charges for access to all his news websites, including the Times, the Sun and the News of the World, by next summer.

Stung by a collapse in advertising revenue as the recession shredded Fleet Street’s traditional business model, Murdoch declared that the era of a free-for-all in online news was over.

“Quality journalism is not cheap,” said Murdoch. “The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites.”

What does “quality journalism” have to do with Murdoch’s tabloids?

The Australian-born press and television baron was speaking as his News Corporation holding company slumped to a $3.4 billion net loss for the financial year to June, hit by huge writedowns in the value of its assets, restructuring charges and a dive in commercial revenue…

At present, only the Wall Street Journal charges a fee for online access and until recently, received wisdom in the publishing industry was that readers would not pay to read newspapers on the internet…

He accepted that there could be a need for furious litigation to prevent stories and photographs being copied elsewhere: “We’ll be asserting our copyright at every point…”

The group’s television division, including its Fox stations in the US and Star networks in Asia, saw profits fall from $1.12bn to $174m.

Should be an interesting couple of years. The few pundits in the world of tech that I consider worth reading on this topic – pretty much agree Murdoch’s plan stinks on ice.

His plan to sue everyone should deliver about as much of a return as it did for the RIAA.

Tracking down the Billion$ withdrawn before Madoff was arrested


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

About $12 billion was pulled out of accounts at Bernard L. Madoff’s firm in 2008, according to several people briefed on an analysis of Mr. Madoff’s business records. About $6 billion, or half, was taken out in just the three months before the financier was arrested in December and charged with operating an extensive Ponzi scheme.

Those figures offer a bit of hope for Mr. Madoff’s thousands of defrauded customers. Under federal law, the trustee overseeing the Madoff bankruptcy can sue to retrieve that money from the investors who withdrew it.

Indeed, the trustee, Irving H. Picard of Baker & Hostetler, filed two lawsuits on Tuesday seeking the return of a total of $6.1 billion, which he estimated had been withdrawn over the last decade.

One case seeks the return of $5.1 billion from various trust funds and partnerships run by Jeffry M. Picower, a prominent Palm Beach, Fla., investor whose charitable foundation was considered one of the notable victims of Mr. Madoff’s fraud.

Mr. Picard also sued to recover $1 billion withdrawn last year by Harley International, a hedge fund based in the Cayman Islands and administered by a unit of the Dutch bank Fortis.

Continue reading

Girls threatened with porn charge sue prosecutor – UPDATED

sexting

One summer night in 2007, a pair of 13-year-old northeastern Pennsylvania girls decided to strip down to their skivvies to beat the heat.

As Marissa Miller talked on the phone and Grace Kelly flashed a peace sign, a third girl took a candid shot of the teens in their white bras.
It was harmless, innocent fun, the teens say.

But the picture somehow wound up on classmates’ cell phones, and a prosecutor has threatened to charge Miller and Kelly with child pornography or open lewdness unless they participate in a five-week after-school program followed by probation.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge to block Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. from filing charges, saying that the teens didn’t consent to having the picture distributed and that the image is not pornography, in any event.

Skumanick said he would fight the lawsuit. “Frankly, we just wanted to protect these kids…

The ACLU’s lawsuit claims…the photos are protected First Amendment speech.

Basic premise #1: people who think images distributed electronically are like carrying a single copy to show a friend and, then, bringing it back home safely are too ignorant for polite description.

Basic premise #2: 19th Century moralists in cop suits are about as useful to the process of moderating communications between human brings as a cast-iron gag. The all-seeing eye of someone who’s growing old awaiting his turn to run for governor.

UPDATE: The ACLU and the girls won their case and the judge has ordered charges dropped. Bravo for common sense.

Sarkozy needled by voodoo doll

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a publishing company if it does not withdraw from shops a “voodoo doll” in his image.

The doll comes with pins and a manual with instructions on how to put the evil eye on the president. Users can stick the pins into choice quotes from Mr Sarkozy which are printed on the doll.

Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer said the president had the “exclusive and absolute rights” over his own image.

He also has exclusive and absolute rights to act like a fool.