(This story has been updated to include the clarification from Missouri Attorney General Hawley’s office regarding the number of those incarcerated in 2017 for Medicaid fraud.)
Missouri’s Attorney General briefed state lawmakers in Jefferson City on Monday about the status of the Google investigation.
Josh Hawley (R) was also asked about numerous other issues by House Budget Committee members.
Attorney General Hawley launched an investigation in 2017 into whether tech giant Google has violated Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act or state anti-trust laws.
Hawley tells the Budget Committee he wants to know what Google is doing with consumer information.
“I want to know what information they’re collecting and I want to know what they’re doing with it,” Hawley testifies. “I want to know how they’re profiting from it, and I want to know who they are giving it to, how and why.”
Hawley says Missouri is the only state currently investigating Google.
He testifies Google is the “most powerful corporation in the world”, adding that if he finds Google violated the law, they will be held accountable.
Hawley describes the investigation as “very active and ongoing.”
Hawley is requesting a $25.3 million budget, which is a reduction of about $100,000. He tells the House Budget Committee he wants to eliminate two full-time employees.
“So I’m proposing to eliminate FTE’s (full-time employees) from the executive administrative staff, not lawyers, but from the administrative staff one IT (information technology) line and one executive assistant,” says Hawley.
Hawley also testifies his office has recovered a record $24 million in Medicaid fraud in 2017.
House Budget Committee Chairman State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, praises that.
“It was really kind of a shocking number of incarcerations that they had said they had achieved for Medicaid fraud, which obviously the biggest portion of our budget is Medicaid,” Fitzpatrick tells Missourinet.
Under questioning from State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, Hawley testifies 776 people were incarcerated in 2017 for that Medicaid fraud.
Missourinet contacted Attorney General Hawley’s office this week to check on that number. Spokeswoman Loree Anne Paradise has clarified that Hawley misspoke about the 776 number from the Medicaid Fraud Control Division report.
The Missouri Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s (MFCU) investigations, and those done jointly with federal counterparts, resulted in 779 months of ordered incarceration for health care fraud and abuse offenders in 2017.
The MFCU report notes that is a 230 percent increase from 2016.
The MFCU operates a statewide program for the investigation and prosecution of health care providers who defraud Missouri’s Medicaid program. It is housed in Hawley’s office.
The MFCU report says the increase in incarceration for health care fraud and abuse reflects their focus on criminal prosecutions and their willingness to take cases to trial.
Rep. Lavender has requested a breakdown on how many of those incarcerated are providers and how many are individuals. Hawley tells Lavender his office will provide that.
Meantime, a Democratic lawmaker says there are about 18 employees in Hawley’s office who earn a six-figure salary.
State Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, brought the issue up to Hawley during Monday’s hearing.
“It looks like there’s about 18 to 20 employees that are making over $100,000 a year. Does that sound about right?” Razer asks Hawley.
“I don’t know the exact number but we can get you that number,” Hawley responds.
Razer then requested the names and salaries of those employees. Hawley tells Razer he will provide that.
Hawley’s residency issue also came up briefly during the hearing.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, asked Hawley if taxpayers paid for his attorneys in the Jefferson City residency case.
Hawley testifies yes, noting he was sued in his official capacity as the Missouri Attorney General.
Hawley also briefed the Budget Committee about his lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies: Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. He filed a lawsuit against the companies in 2017.
He also testifies there are currently $450 million in pending claims involving the state’s Legal Expense Fund.
Missouri’s Legal Expense Fund is used to make payments that stem from lawsuits against the state.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, which was recorded at the Capitol on January 29, 2018: