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Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

SEC Charges 3 Former Wellcare Execs with Fraud and Insider Trading

The SEC charged three former executives of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (“WellCare”), a managed care services company that administers federal government-sponsored health care programs with fraud. According to the Commission’s complaint, from 2003 to 2007, Todd Farha, former Chief Executive Officer, Paul Behrens, former Chief Financial Officer, and Thaddeus Bereday, former General Counsel, (collectively, “the Defendants”), devised and carried out a fraudulent scheme that deceived the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) and the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation (“Healthy Kids”) by improperly retaining over $40 million in health care premiums the company was statutorily and contractually obligated to spend on certain health care services or reimburse to the state agencies. As a result of the scheme, WellCare recorded the retained amount as revenue, which materially inflated its net income and diluted earnings per share (“EPS”) in its public financial statements.

In total, through their fraudulent conduct, the complaint alleges that WellCare reduced the refunds it paid to AHCA by approximately $35 million and to Healthy Kids by approximately $6 million.

The excess premiums retained by the Defendants went straight to WellCare’s bottom line. WellCare materially misstated its net income and EPS in filings with the Commission and in quarterly and annual earnings releases from 2004-2006 and the first two quarters of 2007. On January 26, 2009, WellCare filed its Form 10-K for 2007 and restated its financial results for those time periods. The Restatement reduced WellCare’s reported net income and EPS by approximately 14% for fiscal year (“FY”) 2004, 9% for FY 2005, 13% for FY 2006, and 9% for the first quarter of FY 2007.

The Commission’s complaint also alleges that, after setting their fraudulent scheme in motion, the Defendants sold approximately 1.6 million WellCare shares into the public market for gross proceeds of approximately $91 million. According to the complaint, the Defendants sold the shares pursuant to 10b5-1 trading plans that were created and amended in bad faith, and through three public stock offerings conducted while the scheme was ongoing.

As to each Defendant, the Commission is seeking a judgment permanently enjoining them from violating provisions of the securities laws, civil penalties, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and officer and director bars. As to Farha and Behrens, the Commission seeks reimbursement of incentive-based and equity-based compensation pursuant to Section 304(a) of Sarbanes-Oxley.

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