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Seven Things To Know When You Receive A Notice Of Investigation From The Department Of Health

Florida Oncology Practice Reaches $100 Million Deal With DOJ in Antitrust Probe

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On April 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a major Florida oncology group will pay $100 million to resolve a criminal charge that it conspired with competitors to divvy up cancer treatments in the area. This marks the first settlement in an ongoing oncology market allocation probe against Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute LLC (FCS).

The Details of the Antitrust Complaint.

The oncology group, which is based in Fort Myers, Florida, admitted to a single felony antitrust charge under the agreement, the DOJ said. Additionally, FCS inked a civil antitrust settlement with the Florida attorney general requiring it to pay the state $20 million, plus interest.

According to the DOJ, federal prosecutors filed a one-count felony charge against the company in Florida federal court.  Prosecutors allege the company of participating “in a criminal antitrust conspiracy” with unnamed oncology competitors in the southwest Florida counties of Lee, Collier, and Charlotte.

The antitrust complaint states: “FCS and its co-conspirators agreed not to compete to provide chemotherapy and radiation treatments to cancer patients in Southwest Florida.  Beginning as early as 1999 and continuing until at least 2016, FCS entered into an illegal agreement that allocated chemotherapy treatments to FCS and radiation treatments to a competing oncology group.”  Therefore, according to the DOJ, “This conspiracy allowed FCS to operate with minimal competition in Southwest Florida and limited valuable integrated care options and choices for cancer patients.”

We want to point out that the quotations above are statements that were made by the government in relation to this case and were not necessarily proven or agreed to by FCS.

The Settlement Agreement.

Under the settlement agreement, the Florida oncology company admitted to a conspiracy to divvy up the radiation and chemotherapy treatments. In addition to the $100 million, which is the statutory maximum, FCS will have to “cooperate fully with the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation” being run with the FBI’s Fort Myers satellite office and must keep up a compliance program aimed at stopping and ferreting out criminal antitrust violations.

Additionally, the deal also obliges FCS to follow a “non-compete waiver” under which it promises not to enforce any non-compete provisions with current and former oncologists.  Other employees who open an oncology practice in southwest Florida or join one are also included in the provision, said the DOJ.

Criminal Antitrust Charges are Rare.

Criminal antitrust charges are rarely brought by the government, especially under the current administration. Anyone that has ever been involved in bringing or defending an anti-trust case knows that it is difficult enough to even have the government open a civil case or investigation, much less a criminal case.

Click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

To view the antitrust complaint about this case on our website, click here.

You can read the state of Florida’s deal with FCS here.

To learn more, read one of my prior blogs on a similar antitrust case.

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Koenig, Bryan. “DOJ Cuts $100M Deal In Oncology Antitrust Probe.” Law360. (April 30, 2020). Web.

Office of Public Affairs. Press Release. “Leading Cancer Treatment Center Admits to Antitrust Crime and Agrees to Pay $100 Million Criminal Penalty.” U.S. Department of Justice. (April 30,2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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