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Aetna sues former marketing exec over defection

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Aetna has invoked a federal trade secrets law in a bid to stop a senior employee from going to work for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

The Hartford, Connecticut-based insurer claimed in its complaint that former senior executive Dale Mackel, who, it says, has knowledge of sensitive and confidential information such as Aetna’s profit margins, violated a noncompete agreement by going to work for Omaha, Nebraska-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

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Aetna also claimed Mackel knows the strategic reasons the Hartford-based company decided to remain in the Nebraska and Iowa Affordable Care Act exchanges after pulling out of other states’ exchanges.

Mackel “knows exactly how Aetna prices its products, and exactly what rates can be negotiated with providers,” Aetna said in the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. “Defendant is not likely to turn a blind eye and allow [Blue Cross Blue Shield] to miss opportunities to use this information in its competition against Aetna.”

Mackel has not yet made a response in court filings. A Nebraska Blue representative declined to comment.

Mackel came to work for Aetna in 2013 as part its acquisition of Coventry Health Care Inc., where he was the company’s chief operating officer for Nebraska operations, according to the complaint. From 2014 until his resignation this year, Mackel received $2 million in cash compensation and equity grants along with $800,000 in stock options.

At Aetna, Mackel worked as marketing president and was responsible for “high level” marketing strategies used to promote Aetna’s business in local markets.

In that role, according to the complaint, Mackel came into contact with highly sensitive information relating to pricing, costs and profits.

“Specifically, defendant knows how Aetna formulates pricing, how much it is paying its networks of providers, how it arrived at those amounts, and how much profit or loss it is generating,” Aetna said. “This is the type of information that drives market competition and the type of information a competitor would want to see…. If disclosed, all of this information would enable a competitor to unfairly undercut Aetna, attract its customers, and shrink competition in a market.” 


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