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jeb bush Joins the Tenet Gravy Train

by get jeb in d hed Wednesday, May. 16, 2007 at 1:13 PM

crime pays

By Brett Arends

Mutual Funds Columnist

5/9/2007 10:25 AM EDT

A senior member of the Bush dynasty is about to get a large sum of money

from a company with a history of ethical violations.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Jeb Bush, the president's brother and former governor of Florida, is up

for election Thursday as a director of troubled hospital chain Tenet

Healthcare (THC - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating). Assuming he's

waved through, his pay in his first year would come to nearly ,000 a day.

This is the same Tenet that had to pay 0 million to Uncle Sam last

summer to settle charges that it had overbilled Medicare and Medicaid

over many years.

Nine hundred million dollars.

The U.S. attorneys announcing the settlement accused the company of

"fraud" and trying to "manipulate and cheat the system."

Mike Leavitt, the Health and Human Services Secretary appointed by Jeb's

brother George, said the company had "fraudulently abused the Medicare


It's also the same Tenet that just paid million to the IRS after an

audit found it owed back taxes going back as far as 1995.

The company recently had to restate nearly five years of earnings

statements after an investigation into its books.

And this is just the big stuff. Tenet's recent public filings read like

a police blotter. One of its clinics in South Carolina performed 436

open heart operations without certification. The company is being sued

in California by staff claiming they were systematically short-changed

on pay and overtime, in breach of the state's labor code. Three former

Tenet staff members, at a New Orleans hospital it owned, are under

investigation for allegedly euthanizing four patients following

Hurricane Katrina.

 All in all, it's hardly a surprise Tenet Healthcare stock has lost 85%

of its value over the past five years.

The company hadn't returned phone calls seeking a comment by press time;

neither had the former governor's representatives.

Tenet isn't partisan. Among its current directors is Bob Kerrey, the

former Democratic senator from Nebraska.

This will be Jeb Bush's first job since leaving the governor's office in

Tallahassee four months ago.

Of course, it's not quite the election he was hoping for. Once upon a

time, the dynasty was grooming him to run for president. But his older

brother got there first and has probably poisoned that well forever.

Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer won't be on hand for the vote at

Thursday's stockholders meeting. Do not expect to see many "Jeb '08"

badges around the Westin Hotel in Dallas. Somehow, the atmosphere won't

quite match the excitement of waiting for the returns from Ohio.

But Jeb, look on the bright side.

You've been complaining about your finances. Your last filings as

governor showed your net worth was down to just .4 million. Obviously,

that figure won't count any of the vast Bush family fortune. But still,

it's embarrassing. Who wants to ask mom and pop for extra cash every

Fourth of July? At your age, you should be buying your own yacht.

Sure, the Tenet job may look pretty tacky for someone of your standing,

but the pay isn't bad.

It's lucky the media aren't paying too much attention. Anyone reading

the public filings would have discovered that in your first year, you'll

earn 4,500 -- for 13 days' work.

That's ,500 a day. And the "work" consists of sitting in a board

room, so it's not exactly heavy lifting.

If the board meetings last an average of four hours, you'll be pulling

in ,125 an hour.

Not bad for a guy who could manage only a B.A. in Latin American Studies

from the University of Texas. Many of Tenet's 65,000 personnel are

qualified medical staff with years of experience. Yet according to

public filings, their average salary and benefits last year came to

around ,000 for full-time work.

You get that in two days.

Who says all the good jobs are going to China?

I'm sure your family lawyer has already explained the details, Jeb, but

just to recap the terms: As a nonemployee director you'll get an

immediate golden handshake of 0,000 in "restricted stock units."

Nothing says "welcome aboard" quite like a quarter-million. Plus you'll

get another 0,000 in restricted stock units each year. That's on top

of your retainer of ,000 a year.

And all that is before you turn up for a single board meeting. For each

one you attend, you get another ,500. There's another ,200 every

time you show up at a committee meeting.

A word of advice: Avoid the audit and compliance committees. There's too

much work and there's always the risk something will go wrong. For an

easy life, join the compensation committee. It meets only seven times a

year and you don't have to do anything. Just hire some consultants to

review executive pay, and agree to whatever they suggest. The executives

will be grateful, and that can pay real dividends down the road. See it

as using shareholder money to stock up the favor bank.

What a deal!

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