In January 1998, six months after the FBI raids, it was widely reported that Columbia/HCA had concluded its internal investigation. Dr. Thomas Frist, Jr., was quoted in articles saying that he was ready to hammer out a civil settlement with the Justice Department. My attorneys, Stephen Meagher and Peter Chatfield, told me that Frist hadn't even scheduled a meeting yet with the government, and they doubted that a quick settlement would occur. Rather than making a genuine settlement overture, more likely Frist was trying to appease shareholders, hoping to stave off a revolt. My attorneys commented that Frist played the media like a fiddle. They were correct. The media failed to acknowledge the obvious: that with so many hoops to jump through, a quick civil settlement was impossible, even for HCA's “white knight.”
An entire year later, in January 1999, the Justice Department confirmed that it was finally involved in civil settlement talks regarding the Columbia/HCA investigation, now two-and-a-half years old. Kirsten and I believed the company was genuinely attempting to settle the lawsuits. But we soon realized that negotiators had made little progress in the civil settlement discussions. Chatfield, returning from yet another settlement meeting between the Justice Department and Columbia/HCA, phoned me with disappointing news. “It was a waste of time,” he exclaimed.
Columbia/HCA wasn't as serious about settling as it claimed. The cases were unlikely to settle in the first quarter of 1999. The company repeated its insistence that the dual cost report practice was an accepted