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Attorney general's office requests outside counsel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey needs outside attorneys to help with two investigations of potential "price-fixing involving pharmaceuticals," health care law violations and other consumer protection-related problems.

Morrisey's office recently approved its own requests to hire outside attorneys for both cases and posted requests for proposals on its website.

"Our Office is committed to protecting consumers and citizens in any way we can, and in this particular instance, we believe the citizens of West Virginia would be better served by using outside counsel," Morrisey said in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman.

Morrisey describes himself as a "nationally prominent health care lawyer" on his personal website. He's also faced scrutiny this year for his personal connections to pharmaceutical companies being sued by the state.

Morrisey didn't address his expertise or the other pharmaceutical lawsuits in a statement explaining why his office needed outside counsel.

"For these matters, we have determined that the use of outside counsel is in the interest of the state because of the scope of the underlying matters, the burdens they would place on in-house staff and the complex nature of some of the issues involved," Morrisey said in the statement.

Morrisey, a Republican, worked as a private attorney before defeating then-Attorney General Darrell McGraw in the 2012 election. In his previous positions Morrisey "has worked on many high profile health care matters and possess a broad array of experience on regulatory issues, Medicare, Medicaid, policy..." and other areas, according to his website.

He's publicly announced stepping aside from three cases that have ties to some of his past work and his personal life.

Before Morrisey took office the state filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies Cardinal Health, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi. The second suit is against both Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi. The third involved a lawsuit against Bank of America, which is represented by a law firm where Morrisey previously worked.

Cardinal Health contributed to Morrisey's inaugural campaign and Morrisey's wife has received more than $600,000 as a lobbyist for the company since 2012, as first reported in the Charleston Gazette.

Morrisey reportedly met with two Cardinal Health executives in May, according to a different Gazette article. Morrisey's office confirmed the meeting and reaffirmed previous statements that the attorney general has stepped aside in the case.

Morrisey also lobbied for Sanofi while working in the mid 2000s as a private attorney. He stepped aside in the state's case against the company at the recommendation of Peter Markham, general counsel for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Morrisey sent a letter to the governor asking if he should recuse himself in the case.

Cardinal is accused of knowingly contributing to the illegal use of prescription pills in southern West Virginia, according to a 2012 Wall Street Journal report. Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb are accused of falsely marketing the capabilities of blood-thinning medication Plavix.

Morrisey did not mention any lawsuit when asked by the Daily Mail if they had any connection to the request for proposals.

"In certain circumstances, such as these two (requests for proposals), our office cannot divulge certain details regarding the use of outside counsel because it may compromise underlying investigations or legal matters at hand," Morrisey said in the statement.

One proposal asks for help reviewing "a variety of consumer protection-related litigation matters." The second asks for help with "potential violations of state consumer protection and antitrust statutes stemming from potentially deceptive advertisements and instances of price-fixing involving pharmaceuticals and violations of health care regulations"

Outside attorneys are chosen through a competitive bidding process, a new policy implemented since Morrisey took office. He pointed to the success of the policy in his statement.

"Since we implemented these reforms our Office has saved the state more than $1 million in attorneys' fees in just six months, and we expect to save the state many more millions in the years to come," Morrisey said in the statement.

Proposals for both requests must be submitted by Jan. 7.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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