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FTC Fines Columbia/HCA $2.5 Million

July 30, 1998

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has agreed to pay $2.5 million for failing to meet deadlines for divesting three hospitals following the largest-ever merger of hospital companies, the Federal Trade Commission said Thursday.

The FTC approved Columbia’s $3 billion buyout of Healthtrust Inc. in 1995 but attached certain conditions, including that Columbia divest itself of two Utah hospitals within nine months and sell its interest in a Florida hospital within six months.

Columbia failed to meet the deadlines in both cases and the FTC voted 4-0 to impose the fine, which was negotiated with Columbia officials. The fine is the second-largest in FTC history for failure to divest on time.

In a statement, the commission cited Columbia’s ``apparent reckless disregard″ for the FTC order.

Columbia spokesman Jeff Prescott noted the company did not admit to breaking any laws, but was pleased to have the matter settled. The fine must be approved in U.S. District Court in Washington.

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