US seeks stay in civil no-poach suits against UnitedHealth's surgical unit amid federal case

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While it conducts its criminal case, the U.S. is asking for a stay in civil lawsuits against UnitedHealth Group's surgical unit over alleged agreements with competitors to not poach senior-level employees.

In January, the Department of Justice charged Surgical Care Affiliates, which is part of UnitedHealth Group's Optum division, with collusion for the alleged noncompete agreements. A federal grand jury charged SCA and its related entities, which own and operate outpatient medical care centers, with entering and engaging in conspiracies with other healthcare companies to suppress competition between them for the services of senior-level employees. 

In a motion filed March 12 in the Northern District of Illinois, U.S. regulators requested an initial nine-month stay in one of the civil cases and any cases that are consolidated with it. The stay would protect the government's ongoing criminal investigation and would allow the indicted criminal case United States v. Surgical Care Affiliates to proceed through trial, U.S. regulators said. 

"A stay would promote judicial efficiency, protect the integrity of the criminal prosecution and investigation, and ensure that no party may use civil discovery to seek information regarding the pending prosecution and investigation," U.S. regulators said. 

A trial date for the federal charges is currently scheduled for Nov. 2.

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