In his latest campaign ad, Republican gubernatorial candidate and former health care executive Rick Scott points to his opponent Florida CFO Alex Sink’s tenure as an executive at NationsBank, when the bank was fined and required to pay fraud charges.
Scott himself was forced out as CEO of the largest for-profit hospital corporation in the U.S., Columbia/HCA, in 1997 after the U.S. government fined the company an unprecedented $1.7 billion for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The company double-billed or otherwise exaggerated claims and was also accused of giving kickbacks to doctors that referred their patients to Columbia/HCA hospitals.
Now, Scott is accusing Sink of fraud when she was head of Florida operations at NationsBank, which became part of Bank of America in 2000. The charges stem from a $29 million settlement reached in 1997 over deceptive sales practices at NationsSecurites, an arm of NationsBank. The company pushed customers to move Certificates of Deposit into mutual funds, which many elderly customers thought were federally insured government bonds. NationsBank was fined $6.7 million.
But did Sink have any operational control over this scheme? The lead lawyer of the suit against NationsBank, told the St. Petersburg Times that Sink did not:
“Alex Sink could’ve done nothing about it. It was run out of Charlotte. I know she knew what was going on – that investments were being sold in the bank — but that’s it. And she was powerless to stop it, anyway. I had emails where the state presidents were being told what to do, that they had to help the securities people. They would dig into customers bank accounts to identify people who had enough money to buy securities,” Alpert said. “Charlotte said: ‘This is what’s going to happen in your bank lobbies and this is the way it’s going to be.’ They didn’t say you’re going to do A, B, C and D they would say the bank cooperates fully with NationsSecurity…. If Alex Sink were involved in it, it would be a wonderful story for the gubernatorial election. But she didn’t know anything about it.”
There’s also a question of scale. Scott’s company was fined $1.7 billion dollars, while NationsBank was fined $6.7 million by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Rest assured, the ad will circulate — Scott cut himself a $1.1 million check last week for the ad buy.
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.