Former Surgical Care Affiliates director sues UnitedHealth, others over alleged 'no-poach' agreements

A former employee of Surgical Care Affiliates sued the company, UnitedHealth Group and Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare subsidiary United Surgical Partners International, claiming they all agreed to not compete for senior-level executives. 

Allen Spradling, a former director of information technology for SCA, filed the class-action lawsuit March 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. In the lawsuit, Mr. Spradling accused Optum subsidiary SCA, its parent company UnitedHealth, and Dallas-based USPI of violating the Sherman Act by entering agreements to not solicit each other's senior executives.

Mr. Spradling claimed the "no-poach" agreements existed from 2010-17, alleging that top executives at the defendant companies entered into and regulated the agreements. The agreements were "strictly a tool to suppress their senior-level employees' compensation, thereby reducing their own expenses," the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit follows an indictment from the Department of Justice announced Jan. 7. It charged SCA with collusion in relation to the alleged noncompete agreements. 

At the time of the indictment, SCA told Becker's Hospital Review: "The position taken by the government in this matter represents a novel application of the antitrust laws as they relate to employee recruitment, for which there is no precedent or foundation. This matter involves alleged conduct seven years before UnitedHealth Group acquired SCA and does not involve any SCA ambulatory surgery centers, their joint owners, physician partners, current leadership or any other UnitedHealth Group companies. SCA disagrees with the government's position, and will vigorously defend itself against these unjustified allegations."

Becker's reached out to UnitedHealth, USPI and SCA for comment, but did not receive comment by time of publication. This article will be updated if more information becomes available. 

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