DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST TENET’S FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL
The government has filed a complaint alleging that the former general counsel of Tenet Healthcare Corporation violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today. The suit contends that in 1997 and 1998, Christi Sulzbach submitted false certifications to the Department of Health and Human Services which allowed Tenet to bill Medicare for millions of dollars in claims that it was not entitled to receive.
The government’s complaint states that Ms. Sulzbach certified to the Department of Health and Human Services that Tenet was in compliance with all federal program legal requirements despite knowing that contracts between North Ridge Medical Center, a Tenet-owned facility in Florida, and certain employee physicians, were illegal under a federal law known as the Stark Statute. That statute prohibits hospitals from billing Medicare for referrals from physicians with which the hospitals have financial relationships unless those relationships meet certain strict conditions. At the time that Ms. Sulzbach signed the certifications at issue, Tenet’s outside counsel had concluded that the contracts between the physicians and North Ridge violated the Stark Statute.
Although the government entered into a settlement with Tenet relating to these physician contracts in 2004, that agreement did not release Ms. Sulzbach’s liability. Tenet agreed at that time to pay the United States $22.5 million to resolve allegations of improperly billing Medicare for referrals provided by doctors with whom the hospital had prohibited financial arrangements.
The case will be litigated jointly by the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.