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The former No. 2 official at the Medical Society of New Jersey has brought suit against the physicians’ group, claiming he was fired for calling attention to conflicts of interest by directors who also are directors and investors in a medical malpractice insurance carrier. Former Deputy Executive Director Neil Weisfeld charges that four of the seven executive committee members own substantial stock in the Medical Insurance Inter-Exchange (MIIX), creating a conflict between their duty to the society and the public on the one hand and to MIIX stockholders and themselves on the other. Weisfeld asserts that when he recommended a ban on dual memberships to eliminate conflicts, the committee’s response was “immediate and vicious.” On April 3, it voted 4-3 to fire him, then called him out of a meeting and had two armed police officers escort him from the Lawrenceville, N.J., headquarters, he charges. Weisfeld alleges that after he urged an end to the dual roles, the society’s House of Delegates voted to adopt such a prohibition but did not make it applicable to current directors. The conflicts persist with the newly formed successor, MIIX Advantage, the complaint alleges. Weisfeld seeks reinstatement and compensatory and punitive damages in the suit, Weisfeld v. Medical Society of New Jersey, MER-L-3632-02, filed Nov. 20 in Mercer County. He asserts claims under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act and for defamation, wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Named defendants are the society and five executive committee members who allegedly own substantial stock in MIIX and serve on the MIIX board or have other significant involvement with MIIX. Robert Conroy, the medical society’s general counsel, calls Weisfeld “a disgruntled former employee discharged because he was incompetent” who is using the lawsuit “to secure a termination package.” The failures of which Weisfeld accuses the medical society directors really reflect Weisfeld’s own poor job performance in allowing the malpractice crisis to sneak up on the people whom he was supposedly advising on public policy, says Conroy, a partner with Bridgewater, N.J.’s Kern Augustine Conroy & Schoppmann. He says Weisfeld did not oppose MIIX’s going public. Given the medical society’s large ownership interest in MIIX, it was “prudent” for it to control the carrier through its board of directors, says Conroy. He also notes that most society members also own stock in MIIX. According to the complaint, the conflict issue dates to 1999, when MIIX went public. An agreement between MIIX and the society at the time gave the society 5 percent of MIIX’s stock. Weisfeld terms the deal one-sided because the stock could not be sold, and MIIX got exclusive use of the society’s logo for marketing purposes. “The contract certainly constrained the organization and made us beholden to one particular commercial entity that barely two years later was going bankrupt,” he says. Weisfeld blames “the MIIX team’s influence,” which he says also impacted the efforts of a society task force on medical liability insurance formed earlier this year. The task force was chaired by Dr. Eileen Moynihan, described in the complaint as a MIIX director, as well as the society’s then treasurer and, since May, a second vice president. “Certain public policy options such as insurance reforms and tougher regulation of malpractice carriers were immediately off the table,” says Weisfeld, who is represented by Ron Schmidt, a partner with the Washington, D.C., office of Shaffer, Rapaport & Schmidt. The relationship between the medical society and MIIX takes on broader significance in light of the key role played by the society in pushing for tort reform to resolve New Jersey’s medical malpractice insurance crisis. The society has organized rallies of doctors in support of tort reform. At a June 3 hearing before the Assembly committees on health and insurance, Dr. Bernard Saccaro, who replaced Moynihan as chair of the medical liability task force, called for a cap on noneconomic damages and tighter time limits for filing suits.

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