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Rick Scott's role in Columbia/HCA scandal

The Miami Herald looks today at Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's role in the Medicaid fraud case at his former company.

``As I have said repeatedly, Columbia/HCA made mistakes, and I take responsibility for what happened on my watch as CEO,'' Scott said in a written statement Friday. He has denied knowing frauds were taking place while he was there, and he was never charged with any crimes.

However, federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal -- specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001.

The doctor payments were among 10 different kinds of fraud identified by the Justice Department in its 10-year probe of the company, records show. Three years after Scott left Columbia/HCA, the company admitted wrongdoing, pleading guilty to 14 felonies -- most committed during Scott's tenure -- in addition to paying two sets of fines totaling $1.7 billion...

Whether or not Scott was aware of his company's questionable conduct, the breadth of the problems raises questions about Scott's leadership, management experts say.

Nell Minow of the Corporate Library, a watchdog group, put it this way: ``Being ignorant of all that doesn't inspire confidence.'' In judging a CEO, she said, ``it's no better to be a schnook than a crook.''

The key question for Scott is whether he can persuade voters that he deserves to be chief executive of Florida while at the same time insisting that he knew nothing about the greatest Medicare fraud in American history as it happened under his nose.

Full story here.