Docs Fight Oregon to Keep Finances Private

     SALEM, Ore. (CN) – A group of 200 doctors who own shares in Agate Resources filed a class action to stop the Department of Consumer and Business Services from revealing their personal financial information to the Register-Guard newspaper.
     Lead plaintiffs Terry Coplin, shareholder and Agate CEO, and Leo Cytrynbaum, Agate shareholder and board member, sued the Department of Justice, the Department of Consumer and Business Services and Guard Publishing Company dba Register-Guard on Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court.
     The class says the department is poised to reveal members’ identities, personal contact information, the types and quantities of shares each member holds and the amount each member will be paid as part of non-party Centene Corporation’s planned acquisition of Agate and its subsidiaries.
     Most of the 200 shareholders are doctors who originally joined Lane Individual Practice Association and received Agate stock when the two entities merged to form non-party Trillium Community Health Plan.
     Trillium serves about 95,000 Medicaid members and 4,300 Medicare Advantage members, according to the complaint.
     In February, Centene filed acquisition papers to buy Agate, Trillium and Lane Individual Practice Association.
     The shareholders say they filed personal financial information with Centene as part of the acquisition negotiations, but that the information is subject to nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements.
     In May, Eugene daily newspaper the Register-Guard requested documents related to the acquisition, the lawsuit states. The Department of Consumer and Business Services consulted the shareholders and lawyers from Centene and Agate to determine what it could hand over without violating the nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements.
     After a public comment period, the department told the newspaper that it would not release plaintiffs’ personal information, the lawsuit states, noting that it did not have “clear and convincing evidence that disclosure of personal privacy information contained in the [individual shareholders’ records] is necessary to protect the public interest.” (Brackets in complaint)
     But after the department approved the merger between Centene and Agate, the Register-Guard renewed its request for the shareholders’ private information, the class says.
     On June 23, the Oregon Department of Justice allegedly reversed course and ordered the consumer and business services department to release the shareholders’ information.
     The members say the publication of their personal information in the Register-Guard will expose them to significant risk without serving any real public interest.
     And state law exempts the shareholders’ personal records from disclosure requirements, plaintiffs say. Such a move could expose the shareholders to identity theft, critics of the Centene acquisition and “uninvited inquiries from the media,” the lawsuit states.
     The shareholders seek an order stopping the department from releasing their private information.
     Christopher J. Kayser with Larkins Vacura in Portland is representing the shareholders. Neither Kayser nor a representative for the department immediately returned a phone call requesting comment.

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