SC business notebook, Junbe 28

Prosecutors blame Tuomey’s management team

Federal prosecutors place the blame for Tuomey’s current legal dilemma at the feet of the local hospital’s management team and board of directors in a brief filed with the United States District Court late Monday night. “It is Tuomey’s own management and board who are responsible for permitting the damages and penalties to amount to the level ultimately found by the jury,” the federal government writes in its motion supporting the request for a judgment of more than $237 million against the local hospital. Last month, Tuomey was found guilty by a 10-person federal court jury of violating both Stark Law and the False Claims Act by collecting more than $39.3 million in fraudulent Medicare claims between 2005 and 2009. They did so, the government argued, by signing 19 local physicians to lucrative part-time contracts paying beyond market value and thereby creating an illegal kickback of Medicare funds. As a result of the verdict, the U.S. Department of Justice is seeking more than $237.4 million in damages from the local hospital. Tuomey responded earlier this month to the federal government’s damages request by filing a series of responses, saying the local hospital should not have to pay the financial penalty because such an exorbitant amount would be unconstitutional.

Mortgage rates surge

The average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage surged this week to 4.46 percent, the highest in two years. The increase from a 3.93 percent average last week was the largest one-week jump in 26 years, according to a report Thursday from mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. And it shows the Federal Reserve’s hints that it might slow its bond purchases this year are already affecting consumers. In the short run, a spike in rates could prompt more people to buy homes, giving the housing recovery an added boost as buyers rush to lock in rates. But iIf rates continue to climb, sales could slow. The average on the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.50 percent from 3.04 percent last week.

The Sumter Item and The Associated Press contributed.