⚖️ DaVita’s off the hook. Should they be?
BY PEYTON GARCIA | @CITYCASTDENVER
DAVITA IS LET OFF THE HOOK
After two days of deliberation, a federal jury has found DaVita — the Denver-based dialysis company — and its former CEO Kent Thiry not guilty on any counts of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
What’s going on again?
Here’s a refresher: A federal jury was tasked with deciding if DaVita and its former CEO broke the law when they made non-poaching agreements with fellow healthcare companies. Prosecutors from the Department of Justice alleged that such practices suppress competition and hinder employees from advancing their careers. They likened these agreements to price-fixing or bid-rigging.
However, despite the prosecution bringing in nine witnesses and evidence in the form of hundreds of emails and text messages, the jury didn’t believe that Thiry or DaVita intentionally restrained the competition for employees. The defense, for its part, only called one expert witness to the stand, an economist who testified that the agreements didn’t impact salaries or turnover rates.
And why does it matter?
With a not guilty verdict, it doesn’t really. Had the verdict gone the other way, it would have set a new precedent for how companies hire talent from one another. The case, a first of its kind, was closely followed nationally.
But while DaVita might have been the first, it isn’t the last. One of the healthcare companies that DaVita entered into a non-poaching agreement with, Surgical Care Affiliates, is scheduled to face its own trial regarding antitrust laws in January 2023. We’ll have to see if that one plays out any differently.
For what it’s worth, this also isn’t the first time DaVita and Thiry have been at the center of scrutiny. In 2014, the company agreed to pay $350 million to settle claims that it offered kickbacks to doctors who referred their patients to DaVita. In 2015, it settled for $450 million to resolve claims that it prescribed unnecessary drugs to patients and then double-billed Medicare for those drugs. And in 2018, DaVita was instructed to pay more than $380 million to the families of three patients who died at its clinics.
Thiry stepped down as CEO in 2019, but continued serving as executive chairman on the company’s board. He left that role in 2020.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis awarded Thiry the governor’s citizenship medal for innovation, calling him one of the state’s most successful executives.
Want more? Here’s my source material for this story:
- Federal jury acquits DaVita, ex-CEO Kent Thiry in antitrust case [CO Sun]
- Jury finds DaVita, former CEO Kent Thiry not guilty in criminal antitrust case [BusinessDen]
TODAY ON THE PODCAST: RAINBOW GATHERING 🌈
“It’s like boot camp for the soul. I think that’s a very apt description because there are, for me, many lessons that can be learned at a Rainbow Gathering.” — Tenali Hrenak, unofficial Rainbow Gathering documentarian
Coloradans Are Freaking Out About the Rainbow Gathering. But is it Really that Scary?
When the news dropped a few weeks ago that 30,000 hippies were likely to descend on Colorado this summer for the 50th annual Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes, the backlash was swift and vocal. A Reddit post on how to take action against the Rainbow Gathering even garnered more than 600 comments in less than 24 hours. Wildfire risk and the environmental impact of this weeks-long shindig were some of the major concerns cited.
But one thing the City Cast crew didn’t see in any of the coverage? Information from an actual attendee of the Rainbow Gathering. So we called one up. Tenali Hrenak has been going to Rainbow Gatherings all over the world for more than 20 years and he chatted with City Cast Denver host Bree Davies about what this event is really all about, what myths need to be dispelled, and should Coloradans have the right to be concerned?
Hrenak has been collecting field recordings from Rainbow Gatherings for his own podcast. Learn more here: https://soundsfromtherainbow.org/
MORE NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW
🏫 Another chance for Adams 14: Following a hearing last week between the Adams 14 school district and the State Board of Education, board members opted not to close any schools in the district or dissolve the district. Both possibilities were being threatened as a result of the district’s long record of “low achievement scores.” Instead, the board decided on bringing in some outside management to help district leaders. However, closures are not completely off the table and could be reconsidered if the district fails to show a promising plan for moving forward. [Chalkbeat]
- 💬 District superintendent Karla Loria said: “We are up to the challenge. We will deliver. It is aggressive but it is doable. We will make it work.”
- ✏️ Students speak up: Perhaps the most compelling arguments made on behalf of the school district came from the students themselves, dozens of whom submitted public comments for last week’s hearing. [CPR]
🚩 The Tay Anderson saga continues: Last summer’s local Tay Anderson drama that kept us all glued to our newsfeeds has reared its head again. A Denver District Court judge has dismissed the defamation claims against three out of the four defendants named in a lawsuit from Anderson. Anderson’s attorney, Issa Israel, says they plan to appeal the ruling, adding confidently: “Frankly, I like our chances.” [Westword]
🧠 DPS secures more money for mental health services: The Caring for Denver Foundation has awarded Denver Public Schools nearly $600,000 to offer mental health services to students across the district. DPS leaders said they plan to distribute the funds over a three-year period. The money will most notably be used to create and fund three new district positions: one intake specialist and two therapeutic service providers. [CO Politics]
🦆 Meet Mama Goose, and don’t feed her bread: A Canada goose has made her nest and laid four eggs right outside of a Massage Envy location in the Hampden neighborhood. Staff from the store have affectionately named her Mama Goose and posted a sign encouraging people to give the goose her space so she doesn’t abandon her babes. A local birder reminds passersby that if you must bring a food offering, stick to cucumbers or grapes — no bread! — and keep your distance. [Denverite]
THIS WEEK’S THINGS TO DO
📚 WEDNESDAY: “Tell Me Everything” reading
Colorado-based author Erika Krouse will be at the Denver Press Club tomorrow to read from her new memoir “Tell Me Everything.” The book chronicles her time as a private investigator working on a landmark sexual assault case that took place right here in Colorado.
- 👉 Want to know more? I interviewed Erika about her book last month in this City Cast Denver podcast episode: “How CU Boulder Football’s Sexual Assault Scandal Set a Precedent for #MeToo.”
🥡 WEDNESDAY: 4/20 Munchie Box
For Denver’s upcoming marijuana festivities this week, Mister Oso is bringing back its popular 4/20 Munchie Box filled with two empanadas, two Gordo Crunches, two “Big Ass” cookies, two margs, and more for $50. You can order today for pickup on 4/20 – Your high self will thank you later.
🌎 THURSDAY: Earth Day webinar
In honor of Earth Day, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is hosting a free community webinar and panel to offer guidance on how you can get more involved and take action to battle climate change this Earth Day and all year long.
☄️ FRIDAY: Lyrids meteor shower
This annual outer space spectacular is classified as a “medium-strength” shower. It began this week, will run through the end of the month, and is expected to peak late Friday into Saturday. Learn more about what to expect here.
🐾 FRIDAY: Pups on the Patio
If the stress of the week was just too much, unwind at Woodie Fisher with their first Pups on the Patio event of the season. There will be human and doggo treats available. Tables fill up fast (I can’t imagine why), so reservations are strongly encouraged.