Nev. AG fines UnitedHealth $1 million

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 24, 2011

Catherine Cortez Masto

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline) -- Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has ordered UnitedHealth Group Inc. to pay a $1 million fine for violating an antitrust agreement with the state.

According to the Wall Street Journal, UnitedHealth, based in Minnesota, engaged in "prohibited acquisitions" of customers of Fiserv Nevada Inc.

In 2008, the Attorney General's Office allowed UnitedHealth to acquire local insurer Sierra Health Services Inc. as long as it assured the office that it wouldn't buy Fiserv Nevada.

The Attorney General's Office was concerned that the purchase of Fiserv would further reduce competition in the state.

Despite its assurances, UnitedHealth went through with the acquisition, Masto said.

"Through my office's 2008 antitrust law enforcement action, United was permitted to acquire its local competitor Sierra," the attorney general explained in a statement.

"But the United/Sierra transaction was subject to many strict conditions. One condition was that United could not acquire another local company, Fiserv Nevada, given our competitive concerns in 2008. Based on investigating United's compliance with this condition, we have concluded United failed to deliver on its promises to us regarding Fiserv Nevada."

Meanwhile, UnitedHealth issued a statement Thursday saying it was "pleased" the matter was resolved.

"While we disagree with the allegations because UnitedHealth Group did not acquire an interest in, or engage in a joint venture with Fiserv Nevada, we felt it was important to reach a mutual agreement on this issue so we can move forward with our positive working relationship with the Nevada Attorney General's Office and continue to focus our efforts on providing quality service to our Nevada customers," the company said.

The $1 million fine comes from the 2008 agreement, which set a penalty of $100,000 per intentional violation, the Journal reported.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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