In stark contrast to last week’s placid shareholder meeting, Tenet’s Shareholder Committee is outraged – OUTRAGED! – at the “endless cycle of scandal” at the hospital chain and has threatened to run an ads in the Wall Street Journal detailing the problems:”We feel that the executives and board members at Tenet who were responsible for these scandals should be held more accountable,” said Shareholder Committee spokesman Paul Brickman.

While I’m not sure why these lingering concerns weren’t aired at Tenet’s Shareholder Meeting, it was encouraging to see demands for substantive change at Tenet.

But not so fast! It appears that the threatened negative PR campaign has less to do with actually fixing Tenet than the efforts of the head of the Shareholder Committee to take advantage of the hospital chain’s weak state to enrich himself on a real-estate deal:

    “According to Santa Barbara-based Tenet, (Dr. M. Lee) Pearce (Chairman of the Shareholder’s Committee) had threatened to launch a negative publicity campaign unless Tenet agreed to either lease a medical building he owns at an inflated price or sell him an adjacent Tenet-owned hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at a discounted price. Tenet executives acknowledged that the Fort Lauderdale hospital could use the extra space, but said Pearce demanded too high a price for the lease and offered too little for the hospital.”

And it appears that there was backstage wrangling at the publicly serene Shareholder’s Meeting:

    “Shortly before the company’s annual shareholder meeting, Pearce showed Tenet representatives drafts of four ads disparaging the company and threatened to run them if the company refused to deal…But Tenet said before the annual meeting that Pearce threatened to “run a new series of attack advertisements” and “made it clear that the ads would not run and the Tenet Shareholder Committee would cease its activities if Tenet agreed to his demands.”

But Pearce (through his lawyer Jeff Villwock) denies that this is a shakedown:

    “They’ve tried very hard to cast this like this is some sort of extortion,” he said. “But it simply ignores the fact that … they came to us, and we’ve been delaying being public [with criticism] at their request for a couple of months. At some point you have to say let’s decide if you really want to do this. If not, great.”

With shareholders like these, who needs competition!

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