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UnitedHealth has lost its legal effort to stop one of its former executives from going to work for the new health care venture that has been launched by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase.

The New York Times writes that “a federal judge in Boston denied UnitedHealth’s request to have the executive, David William Smith, immediately stop working. Mr. Smith was an executive at Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth, and it accused him of taking corporate secrets to what it claimed was a competitor. Mr. Smith has denied any wrongdoing. In its court filings, UnitedHealth argued that Mr. Smith’s role at Optum made him privy to sensitive information about its plans.”

The story notes that “the case against the nascent venture has highlighted the anxiety of established insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers over newcomers to their territory. From start-ups to giant technology firms, the new rivals threaten to unseat companies, like UnitedHealth, that have traditionally dominated these markets. Amazon, which has made tentative forays into the pharmacy business, has emerged as a particularly worrisome competitor.”

However, to this point the new venture doesn’t even have a name or a clear mandate, though it appears that it “plans to tackle several areas, including how benefits are provided through traditional health insurance plans.”
KC's View:
At least, through discovery, UnitedHealth has a little bit more information about what Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase have in mind. Not that it’ll matter, if all it wants to do is play defense.