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Weekly Update from Attorney General Ken Paxton: November 18, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016 – Austin, TX


The good men and women who work inside the Attorney General’s office did Texas proud this week, securing two significant wins on behalf of Texans.

NFIB v. Perez

In the first instance, my office halted the U.S. Department of Labor from undermining one of the most cherished rights in American law: the right to counsel. The Department of Labor, as part of its pro-union crusade, imposed a so-called “persuader rule,” which would have required law firms to publically disclose when they offered employers advice on how to respond to unionization efforts among their staff. Most law firms have a strong aversion to disclosing their clients’ identity and so would have hesitated before accepting a retainer that would force their hand. As a consequence, employers would have found it quite difficult to secure good counsel.

Texas, along with nine other states, refused to allow the federal government to elevate its preference for organized labor above our country’s adversarial legal system and the attorney-client privilege that sustains it. We intervened in the case and convinced the court of the policy’s incompatibility with the rule of law. On Wednesday, a federal district judge granted our request for a summary judgment and instituted a permanent, nationwide injunction. We anticipate that the incoming Trump administration will decline to appeal this decision, meaning that in at least one area, the federal government has learned an important, and hopefully lasting, lesson that there are limits on its power to refashion the economy in its image.

Texas v. Echenwune

The second victory, in contrast, concerned matters closer to home. Chimaroke Echenwune, along with his wife, stole up to $1.3 million of taxpayer money by using Echenwune’s ambulance company, Diamex EMS, to improperly bill for services that were either not covered by public healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, or, in some cases, never actually performed by the company. Mentally handicapped patients, for example, were billed for transports to hospitals when they in fact were being taken to adult daycare facilities, which are not covered by Medicare.

A big challenge in managing extensive, government-run programs is that the lack of transparency and the lack of vibrant competition create both the incentive and opportunity for bad actors to engage in illegal activity. That risk is especially prevalent in Medicare and Medicaid where regulations are dense and patients are unfamiliar with the programs’ highly technical billing codes as well as the medical reasons why certain services may or not be necessary. My office, however, takes its duty as stewards of taxpayer money seriously.  We prosecuted Echenwune to the fullest extent of the law. The court sentenced him to serve 30 years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and to pay a $10,000 fine.

The judgments for each case are hyperlinked above.

I want to take this opportunity to wish you and those you love a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving. Despite the circumstances that might often surround us, we truly have so much to be thankful for, and I hope you know how grateful I am to serve you and all of Texas as your Attorney General.

Very Truly Yours,

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Ken Paxton