In January 2001, Judge Royce Lamberth intervened in my five-year-old Columbia/HCA reserve cost report case and ordered the Justice Department to file monthly status reports updating him on the progress of all the qui tam cases. While the reports were designed to clarify settlement progress, they generated huge amounts of stress for me every month. Deadlines came and went. Status reports came and went, most un-encouraging. In February 2001, the status report detailed an impasse between the government and Columbia/HCA on the physician kickback allegations, but reported that negotiations continued on the cost report reserve issues. The status reports were our only gauge of the negotiation process. My attorneys and I hoped settlement negotiations were progressing smoothly, but the reality was that Columbia/HCA and the Justice Department were squaring off on both issues.
Weeks after the December 2000 partial settlement agreement was reached, Columbia/HCA named Jack Bovender, a twenty-year HCA veteran, as its president and chief executive officer. Dr. Thomas Frist, Jr. remained chairman. I wondered if Frist was stepping aside believing the worst was behind him. I speculated that HCA wasn't genuinely interested in settling the cost report issues quickly. Rather, it seemed that the company's strategy was to stall as long as possible. The company had outlasted the Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Janet Reno, from the Clinton administration. Now we were in a Republican adminis