After two years of feuding over who was to blame for millions of dollars in pension fund losses, the Citrus County Hospital Board and its former financial advisor Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting will square off in federal court.
The two sides will meet Monday, April 12, in federal court in Tampa. The bench trial before a judge is slated for eight days.
At the head of the federal lawsuit, which is now in its second year, is the Foundation Resolution Corp., which is what remains of the organization that operated Citrus Memorial Hospital before it was leased by the hospital board to Hospital Corporation of America.
The hospital board owns the hospital on behalf of the public and is a nonprofit organization. The hospital board had to loan the FRC $17.5 million to wind down the pension to ensure all the hospital’s employees were paid after the loss.
The hospital board’s consulting lawyers in the Aon Hewitt case told the hospital board earlier this year that their expert witness estimated that Aon was behind the loss of as much as $12 million to the fund. Hospital board lawyers contend that Aon failed to monitor its own proprietary investments for the Citrus Memorial Hospital pension fund and failed to liquidate the investments when the cash was needed for the lease of the facility. During the delay, the investments lost value, the lawyers contend.
The financial investment by the hospital board in the case has been a big one. The hospital board has spent about $2.3 million in legal fees fighting Aon Hewitt.
The court date comes just two months after hospital board lawyer Bill Grant told the hospital board that negotiations for a settlement were progressing and a conclusion could be soon.
Grant said the hospital board has oversight of the issues involved, but not control, but does have final approval to any settlements.
Grant said the case is important and Citrus County should know about it.
“I want to make sure the people of Citrus County, Florida, (see) what’s going on,” he said.
If the FRC recoups any money from Aon, it will hand that money over to the hospital board to repay the board’s loan to the FRC. The board is expected to turn over the money to the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation to dispense to local charities and health-related programs.
Although the hospital board and Aon have an April trial date, both sides could still come to a settlement before then.