Judge allows anti-poaching case against UnitedHealth, Tenet affiliates to move forward

A federal judge ruled this week that a proposed class-action suit against three massive healthcare companies over an alleged anti-poaching arrangement must move forward.

The suit, originally filed in March 2021, claims that UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Surgical Care Affiliates, DaVita and Tenet Healthcare affiliate Surgical Partners International had an arrangement in place between 2010 and 2017 where they agreed not to poach senior executives from one another.

While the case against SCA, DaVita and SPI will continue, Illinois Judge Andrea Wood ruled that there is no evidence to support allegations that UHG played a direct role in the alleged conspiracy. UnitedHealth's Optum acquired SCA in 2017, and, as the medical group essentially continued as is under the Optum umbrella, there is limited evidence that UnitedHealth was directly involved, Wood said.

"Plaintiffs fall well short of pleading a basis for piercing the corporate veil to hold UHG liable for SCA’s antitrust violations," she said.

Former SCA executive Allen Spradling filed the initial suit, and Wood agreed that SCA, DaVita and SPI must face the alleged Sherman Act violations, which claims the arrangement created an unlawful "restraint of trade."

SCA was indicted by the feds on similar charges in January 2021.