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More shareholders sue Aetna over insurer's decision to leave ACA exchanges

Allegheny County Employees' Retirement Fund said exits were retaliation for federal government blocking $37 billion merger with Humana.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Aetna is facing another lawsuit brought by shareholders who claim the company lost stock value when the insurer pulled out of Affordable Care Act exchange markets and tried to cover up the real reason for the exits.

Aetna left 11 ACA exchanges not as a business decision due to financial losses, as the company claimed, according to the lawsuit filed by the Allegheny County Employees' Retirement Fund. It was retaliation against the federal government for blocking its proposed $37 billion merger with Humana, according to the lawsuit reported by the Hartford Courant.

[Also: Aetna reports 52% surge in second quarter profit]

In a July 2016 letter to the Department of Justice, Aetna said it would be forced to scale back on its ACA footprint should the DOJ block the merger.

The DOJ soon after brought an injunction against the deal and in August, Aetna exited 11 of the 15 states where it operated on the exchanges.

[Also: Aetna to leave ACA market in 2018]

In January, some of Aetna's securities holders filed a class action lawsuit for similar reasons having to do with the attempted merger with Humana. The securities holders sought a share of the more than $1 billion lost when Aetna left portions of the exchange market to better its argument for a merger, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by the Westchester Putnam Counties Heavy and Highway Laborers Local 60 Benefits Fund, and others.

[Also: Aetna faces class action lawsuit over Obamacare exits]

Aetna misled investors when it withdrew from 11 ACA exchanges, that lawsuit said. Aetna called the move a business decision, but court records showed it was an attempt to lessen antitrust concerns.

In his January 23 ruling against the merger, United State District Court Judge John D. Bates said Aetna withdrew its participation in 11 of 15 state public exchanges beginning in 2017 to counter Department of Justice concerns that the proposed merger would lead to a loss of competition in those areas where Aetna and Humana both competed.

Aetna executives tried to conceal the reasoning behind their recommendation to withdraw, according to the ruling and the lawsuit.

The day the judge ruled against Aetna, Aetna's stock price dropped $3.33 per share, or 2.7 percent, wiping out $1.17 billion on the company's market capitalization, the lawsuit said. On Jan. 24, Aetna's stock price dropped an additional $1.59 per share, wiping out an additional $558 million, according to the federal securities class action lawsuit.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse

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