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Handling cases on both sides of the table

Talk about someone who's seen it all.

The lawyer who represented giant hospital chain HCA Inc. when federal prosecutors accused it of wrongdoing a few years ago is now on the other side of the table, heading the case against Arthur Andersen.

The accounting firm, not its partners, was indicted this month on a charge of obstruction of justice. The indictment came after settlement negotiations between government lawyers and Andersen reached a stalemate. Leading the government's negotiations was Michael Chertoff, director of the Justice Department's criminal division.

Just two years ago, Chertoff took part in more successful negotiations, representing the company then known as Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. against charges of health care fraud. Chertoff helped HCA avoid indictment by agreeing to pay a fine of $840-million. The settlement was the largest ever, but it helped HCA avoid an even more costly punishment: exclusion from the federal Medicare program that accounts for more than one-third of the company's revenues.

Despite Chertoff's skill, not all the government's claims against HCA were erased with the multimillion-dollar fine. Lawsuits claiming the company paid physicians kickbacks and overbilled Medicare on hospital cost reports still are winding their way through court.

Recently, the cost report case came to a standstill when HCA refused to allow its employees to be questioned until the government identifies individuals targeted for criminal investigation. The wrangling between HCA and the government also took an unusual turn when Tom Scully, who runs Medicare, told Congress he didn't agree with the Justice Department's cost report case against HCA.

Scully was previously president of the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade group whose largest member is HCA.


Investing in your own back yard

Tampa Bay investors who buy shares in real estate investment trusts may not realize it, but a hefty chunk of their dividend income is being generated right in their own back yards.

Publicly traded REITs own more than 350 properties in the Tampa Bay area, according to statistics compiled by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.

This list shows some of the publicly traded REITs making their presence felt in the bay area's commercial real estate market.


Some bay area REITs

Company name Tampa Bay

(Ticker Symbol) properties

Highwoods Property Inc. (HIW) 49

First Industrial Realty Trust (FR) 48

Liberty Property Trust (LRY) 26

Apartment Investment &

Management Co. (AIV) 24

ProLogis Trust (PLD) 18

Equity Residential

Properties Trust (EQR) 17

EastGroup Properties

Inc. (EGP) 14

Public Storage Inc. (PSA) 14

Camden Property Trust (CPT) 11

Source: National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts

Company Name Primary Examples


Highwoods Property

Inc. (HIW) Office Lakepoint, Tampa; Sabal Business

Center, Tampa

First Industrial Industrial West Waters Avenue, Tampa;

Realty Trust (FR) Benjamin Road, Tampa.

Liberty Property Industrial Woodland Center Boulevard,


Trust (LRY) Kelsey Lane, Tampa

Apartment Investment Residential Sunchase, Clearwater; Heritage

& Management Co. (AIV) Village, Temple Terrace

ProLogis Trust (PLD) Industrial Sabal Park Dist. Center, Tampa;

Silo Bend Dist. Center, Tampa

Equity Residential Residential Promenade, St. Petersburg;

Properties Trust (EQR) Horizon Place, Tampa

EastGroup Properties Industrial Palm River Center, Tampa;

Inc. (EGP) Westlake Dist. Center, Tampa

Public Storage Inc. Self-storage Brandon Boulevard, Brandon; 34th

(PSA) Street N, Pinellas Park

Camden Property Residential Fourth Street Station, St.

Trust (CPT) Petersburg; Island Club, Tampa

Source: National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts

Health care gets a new dose of semantics

Executives with Lumenos, a new company with one of those names that sounds nice but means absolutely nothing, were at a seminar sponsored by Wittner National Group in Clearwater last week introducing their new strategy for health benefits.

The Alexandria, Va., company, funded with $76.1-million in venture capital, is not an insurance company. But its benefit plan, marketed so far to big companies such as Novartis, Gerber and Federated Stores, sounds a lot like the future being plotted by every managed care company.

To rein in double-digit premium increases, benefit plans are being restructured to put more control in the hands of the employees. Lumenos and others touting similar plans deny that the goal is to shift more cost to the consumer, but make no mistake: The person who opts for brand name drugs over generic or two days in the hospital instead of one will end up paying more out of pocket.

Under Lumenos' model, an employee could have the first $2,000 of medical expenses covered; the next $1,000 would come out of the employee's pocket; anything over that would be covered by the company but with a 20 percent employee copay. Employees would be encouraged to be cautious about their health care spending because anything not tapped from the initial $2,000 is rolled over to the next year.

As Lumenos and others promote such dramatic changes in health benefits, they emphasize that semantics are important: Employees will no longer be called members; now they're consumers. The new philosophy is one of empowerment, not entitlement.

And don't even mention managed care. Bonnie Hathcock, chief human resources officer at Humana Inc., followed the Lumenos executives with a presentation of her company's new "SmartSuite" product.

"We're running away from the managed care label as fast as we can," she said.


A new top banana at Universal Studios Florida?

King Kong's days may be numbered at Universal Orlando.

Rumors are swirling on the Central Florida theme park grapevine that marketers think the Scorpion King might resonate with today's teens better than the fake fur creature that some theme park workers call Ol' Banana Breath. Besides, the story goes, Kongfrontation, one of the theme park's original headline rides, has not aged well in the never-ending sweepstakes for high-tech blockbuster rides.

"We don't comment on rumors or speculation," Universal Orlando spokesman Jim Canfield said.

But park officials are known to be watching how well the new movie The Scorpion King does this spring to gauge whether there's enough fan interest to sustain a theme park ride at Universal Studios Florida. A sister park in California, Universal Studios Hollywood, has a scary walk-through maze built of sets from The Mummy Returns, which introduced the Scorpion King as a character/monster.

Starring World Wrestling Federation phenom Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson _ he of the raised eyebrow _ The Scorpion King premieres April 19 as an action/adventure prequel to The Mummy. The film's executive producer is WWF CEO Vince McMahon.

Sounds like a match for Universal, which regards itself as the theme park with attitude.