Does Rob Riley Engage in Fraud While He 'Fights' Fraud?

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Editor’s Note: In any other state in the country with a functioning watchdog press, this story would have generated howls about a conflict of interest on the part of the governor’s son. Yet not one word about this has been published in a single Alabama newspaper. We are now pursuing funding from investigative journalism sources to begin shedding light on all the political shenanigans being conducted in the dark in this state, and teaming up with other reporters such as Roger Shuler to try and build the new Web Press infrastructure here. This story only scratches the surface of what we can accomplish. If you want to help, get in touch.

by Roger Shuler

Alabama attorney Rob Riley, who has a curious history of cashing in on the Don Siegelman prosecution, recently announced a $109-million settlement in a fraud lawsuit involving HealthSouth Corporation. But sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Riley himself is involved in a company that faces allegations it practices health-care fraud.

Riley, the son of Alabama governor and former Siegelman opponent Bob Riley, announced that HealthSouth investors had reached a settlement with the accounting firm Ernst and Young. The suit alleged that Ernst and Young failed to detect a fraud that almost destroyed Birmingham-based HealthSouth.

“We think it is a good settlement for the shareholders, many of whom thought they would never see any return on their investment,” Riley told The Birmingham News.

Riley is a curious choice to be lead counsel in a lawsuit alleging health-care fraud. That’s because, according to our sources, he is an officer in a company that appears to have engaged in health-care fraud–and perhaps still is.

Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Riley is an owner and officer in a Birmingham-based company that provides physical-therapy services. The company is facing allegations that it has repeatedly defrauded federal health-care programs.

Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, has received extensive information about the alleged fraud scheme involving Riley’s company, sources say. But Martin, a George W. Bush appointee and a long-time ally of Bob Riley, has refused to intervene in the case.

As we reported back in January, Martin has a history of providing favorable treatment to politically connected parties who have allegedly engaged in health-care fraud. She appears to be doing that again with the case involving Rob Riley’s company.

Riley’s connections to the HealthSouth lawsuit first came to light in April 2008, thanks to some expert reporting by Sam Stein, of Huffington Post.

Let’s review some of the key points from the Stein article:

* Months before Siegelman was charged, court documents show, Riley knew an indictment was coming and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy would be drawn into it;

* In what appears to be a case of legal-political “insider trading,” Riley managed to maneuver himself into a hugely profitable role as lead local counsel in a massive lawsuit against Scrushy, HealthSouth, Ernst and Young, and others;

* Riley snagged the lead counsel role even though most of his legal experience was in the area of medical malpractice. He had little or no experience in complex securities litigation;

* When the HealthSouth litigation began in 2003, Riley’s name was nowhere to be found. He joined the fray in January 2005, representing the New Mexico State Investment Council, a relatively new player in the case;

* Why did Riley rise to play a central role in the HealthSouth lawsuit? Almost certainly it was because of his ties to U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, whom Riley knew held a grudge against Siegelman and would be the perfect hanging judge in the criminal case;

* Riley surely knew that his ties to Fuller would pay off in the civil case. That apparently happened in May 2006 when an investment banker testifying in the criminal case said HealthSouth had pressured him to come up with $250,000 for Siegelman’s education lottery fund;

* Shortly after this revelation in the criminal case, HealthSouth agreed to pay $445 million to settle its portion of the civil case. It was one of the largest settlements in securities-litigation history. And it appears that Rob Riley engineered it.

So what is the current status of the HealthSouth lawsuit? The $109 million payment from Ernst and Young appears to be set. An appeal issue has delayed disbursement of the $445 million from the 2006 settlement involving HealthSouth and several former officers and directors. Riley says a shareholder lawsuit still is pending against Scrushy and investment bank UBS AG.

Let’s do a little quick Schnauzer math. At least $554 million is waiting to be dispersed to multiple shareholders and plaintiffs’ attorneys. How massive is this litigation? The case file includes almost 1,600 documents, and roughly 150 plaintiffs’ lawyers have been involved.

Out of all of these attorneys, representing powerhouse firms from both coasts and some of the most prominent firms in Alabama, who was designated as “liaison counsel for shareholder lead plaintiff”?

Whose name was front and center on a motion for settlement filed on March 23, 2009? Why, none other than Rob Riley, who just happened to have all kinds of connections to the Siegelman/Scrushy criminal case.

Here are a couple of questions to ponder:

* Did any of the 150-plus lawyers who apparently allowed Riley to take a lead position in the HealthSouth lawsuit ever wonder if he might have more than a few conflicts of interest in the case? Were they concerned about the appearance of impropriety caused by Riley’s connections to the Siegelman criminal case? Or were they simply interested in the fact that Riley could help rake in big bucks — for them and for himself?

* Did any of these lawyers know — or did they even care — that Riley was an officer in a company that itself appeared to be engaged in health-care fraud? Would any of these 150 plaintiffs’ lawyers–or perhaps the numerous defense attorneys — think it relevant that lead counsel in the HealthSouth fraud litigation was himself an apparent actor in a fraud case connected to the delivery of health-care services?

* Aside from alleged fraud committed by Riley’s company, consider the conflict Riley appears to have in the HealthSouth case. Riley is an owner in a company that provides rehabilitation services. That’s the same area of medicine in which HealthSouth has made its name. If HealthSouth is greatly weakened in the rehabilitation field, do Riley and his business partners stand to profit?

Would some of these multimillion-dollar settlements fall apart if it is shown that Rob Riley has a massive conflict of interest — and is an owner in a company that allegedly engaged in health-care fraud while he purported to be fighting for victims of health-care fraud?

Stay tuned to Legal Schnauzer. We are going to be looking into all of these questions — and providing details about the case against Rob Riley’s company.

Originally published by the Legal Schnauzer. Republished here with permission. Roger Shuler is an experienced journalist who formerly wrote for the Birmingham Post-Herald, now defunct.

© 2009, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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