Idaho attorney general renews opposition to St. Luke's merger with Saltzer

adutton@idahostatesman.comSeptember 5, 2012 

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has written to the Saltzer Medical Group in Nampa with the same request he made of St. Luke’s in February: Hold off on buying Saltzer until Wasden finishes his investigation of possible violations of Idaho’s Competition Act.

The Federal Trade Commission is also investigating the Boise health system’s acquisitions of other medical businesses.

St. Luke’s did hold off for several months. But the hospital system told the Statesman last month that it would resume merger talks and give investigators 30 days’ notice before closing on a deal. St. Luke’s notified Wasden, too.

Wasden then sent a Saltzer lawyer a letter similar to his request to the hospital system.

“The acquisition, if consummated, directly affects our current antitrust review,” Wasden wrote last week. “While there are various remedies available to address acquisitions that substantially lessen competition, including divestiture, I would hope that upon conclusion of our investigation ... we could work to address [concerns] amicably and informally without the need for litigation and court participation,” then adding that he hopes the acquisition will be delayed.

It would be costly and time-consuming for everyone if the merger resulted in litigation, Wasden said.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Statesman has learned that Saltzer’s attorneys sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange in May, asking to meet with him about the attorney general’s “tentative decision ... working in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission to halt any type of merger, acquisition or other business relationship” that it was pursuing with St. Luke’s.

That letter also suggests some Saltzer doctors did not want to join St. Luke’s.

Saltzer’s attorneys argued that Saltzer should be brought into the discussions among St. Luke’s, the FTC and Wasden.

“It seems odd, if not unfair, to listen to only part of the story in making the determination to interfere with my client’s right to contract,” wrote Brian K. Julian, an attorney for Saltzer. Julian asked DeLange to meet with Saltzer representatives and the doctors who want to join St. Luke’s.

“I believe you will find the majority interest of Saltzer Medical Group to be (illuminating) and the time spent will be helpful in explaining the vitriolic stance taken by a very small (minority) of Saltzer shareholders,” Julian wrote.

DeLange responded to Julian that his office was willing to talk about Saltzer’s concerns.

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