A US Government Prosecutor Now Defends Health Care Corporations: No Different Than Being Traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees?

We have discussed a few examples of the revolving door, involving government officials who dealt with health care issues leaving to eventually take jobs for for-profit health care corporations. 

The latest, and most vivid example of the revolving door was just in an article by Duff Wilson in the New York Times:

Michael K. Loucks was arguably the nation’s most influential prosecutor of health care fraud.

He racked up numerous convictions and mega-settlements in nearly a quarter-century, using whistle-blowers and secret grand juries to pressure major pharmaceutical and health companies into ending illegal practices like kickbacks to doctors and misuse of blockbuster drugs.

Once described as a cross between a firebrand preacher and a charismatic litigator, Mr. Loucks burnished a reputation aptly captured in a Fortune magazine headline: ‘Why Do Drug Companies Fear This Man? Maybe because he’s declared all-out war on cheats in the drug industry.’

But a year and a half ago, Mr. Loucks, a Republican, left the United States attorney’s office in Boston after he was passed over for the top post and President Obama appointed a Democrat. Instead, Mr. Loucks joined Skadden, Arps last July, and has startled former allies by emerging in recent months as zealous a corporate defender as he was a prosecutor, complete with proposals seeking more lenient treatment for the medical companies he once vilified.

In a six-page memo last month to clients in his portfolio, which may include some of the very same corporations he prosecuted repeatedly, Mr. Loucks bemoaned strategies he had embraced.

Note that we noted what Duff Wilson called Mr Loucks “crowning achievement” here.

This case was particularly striking because Mr Loucks was not merely involved with government health care policy.  He was prosecuting alleged wrongdoing by health care corporations while within government.  However, now he is defending the same companies whose actions he once called “evil.”

This generates concern that those in government charged with keeping health care corporations honest at best regard what they are doing as simply some kind of game, and at worst, as an avenue to future more lucrative corporate positions.

This was reinforced at the conclusion of the Wilson article, in which Duff Wilson challenged Mr Loucks that his new job was considered by some to going “over to the dark side.” Earlier in the piece, Mr Loucks made the usual response of an attorney defending an apparently unsavory client.

While everyone calls it ‘the other side,’ I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done, which is zealously representing my clients.

But then he added a sports analogy:

For his part, Mr. Loucks uses a baseball reference. Johnny Damon left his beloved Boston Red Sox in late 2005 to sign with ‘the evil empire, the New York Yankees,’ Mr. Loucks said. Both teams won World Series with help from Mr. Damon.

Asked whether the ‘evil empire’ analogy fit the Justice Department or Skadden, Mr. Loucks said, ‘One man’s evil empire is another’s home team.’

I do live in Red Sox Nation, and some people around here do call the New York Yankees the “evil empire.” I am sure nearly all of them realize that this is just sports fans’ hyperbole.

So Mr Loucks, the trained lawyer and former federal prosecutor, rationalized his new, lucrative position defending the companies whose conduct he once called “evil” with a logical fallacy. As best as I can determine, that fallacy was a hasty generalization with this structure: He took a sample of a single organization called an “evil empire,” (the NY Yankees). He noted correctly  that this one organization is not really an evil empire, but some peoples’ baseball home team. He then made the hasty generalization that because one organization popularly called an “evil empire” is not actually evil, no entities labelled “evil empires”are any  more evil than the Yankees. 

One wonders if other government regulators regard what they do as having no greater ethical consequences as the decision to swing on a pitch down and in? 

Again, it all has the aroma of corporatism, of government and corporate leaders who see each other as insiders with common interests, and who feel more commonality with each other than with the hicks in the general population.  In that case, can we trust such government regulators to protect the interests of the people whom they are supposed to protect?