Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Burying the lede: Strib PR patsy for UnitedHealth

UPDATE (Friday): So now we know the UnitedHealth PR blitz that the Trib fell for was really cover for Thursday's blockbuster announcement that chief looter William McGuire will be giving back $600 million, and the company's former lawyer will be giving back $30 million. Note that this repayment came about because the Wall Street Journal, NOT the Trib, dug into the company's backdated stock options. Note that McGuire is not going to jail (yet) and still has salary and options totaling over $1.2 billion. So how much of a penalty is the $600 million giveback?
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Today (Wednesday) there's an extraordinary story in the Strib headlined "Mea culpa: UnitedHealth says mistakes will be overcome." The story goes on and on about how UnitedHealth has had a change of heart regarding it's shitty service and financial shenanigans. In the next to last paragraph the story drops a bombshell: On Tuesday (yesterday - the day this story was written) an appeals court made a significant ruling against UnitedHealth requiring it to finally provide documentation to the state attorney general regarding the stock-option backdating of its executives.

So - a real news story took place in court - UnitedHealth was finally required to provide some transparency into the looting of the company by top executives - yet the Trib makes it look like the company separately saw the light in terms of its bad behavior.

The company obviously knew this bad decision (for them) was coming down, and skillfully planned their so-called "mea-culpa" to compete in the media with the judge's decision against them. The Trib is now a PR person's dream. I wonder if any of the UnitedHealth PR people thought this tactic would work so beautifully, transforming an incredibly bad news day instead into a story of voluntary contrition.

You knew the paper now regularly provides cover for Republicans, but even I am astounded by this cynical bullshit.

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