WellCare holds first annual meeting since Medicaid fraud scandal

The first annual meeting of WellCare Health Plans since its Medicaid fraud scandal became public nearly two years ago attracted only a handful of company investors on Thursday.

No more than 10 shareholders showed up at a private meeting room in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tampa — about the same number as company directors and executives in attendance, said spokeswoman Amy Knapp. Reporters and outsiders were not allowed inside.

Chief executive Heath G. Schiesser said the company has made "significant progress'' resolving government investigations into WellCare for defrauding Florida's Medicaid fund by tens of millions of dollars. The company agreed in May to pay $80 million in restitution and civil penalties to avoid federal prosecution.

WellCare also settled an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into tainted financial reports by paying a $10 million fine. The company has restated earnings and in May became current with reporting requirements of the SEC and other regulatory agencies, said Schiesser.

WellCare still faces possible lawsuits by the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services.

Schiesser replaced Todd Farha as the company's top executive three months after the FBI raided WellCare's Tampa headquarters in October 2007. He announced plans last month to leave WellCare, when the board picks a successor.

The meeting, presented on the company's Web site, took less than 30 minutes. No shareholders asked a question during the scheduled Q&A session.

"It was a business decision this would be a closed meeting,'' Knapp said. Schiesser declined to talk with reporters afterwards.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

WellCare holds first annual meeting since Medicaid fraud scandal 07/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009 7:50pm]

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