Fired Montana Blue Cross Official Files Lawsuit

A former chief marketing officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana who says she was fired for reporting illegal actions by the company that had the potential to lead to higher insurance premiums has filed a lawsuit against the company.

The Independent Record reports that Shannon Marsden filed the lawsuit last week in District Court in Helena.

Marsden said that around Aug. 1 she told Blue Cross Chief Legal Counsel Mary Belcher and CEO Michael Frank about illegal rebates to customers of sales commissions, and that led to her firing.

With a bonus of about $50,000, Marsden earned about $279,000 in 2011 before being fired on Dec. 30. She says her contract runs through 2012. At the time of her firing, she was the company’s fourth-highest paid executive.

Marsden said a clause in her contract prevents her from competing with Blue Cross for one year, and Blue Cross has told potential employers of Marsden about that clause.

In a statement Blue Cross denied allegations of wrongdoing and said it complied with terms in Marsden’s contract.

According to the lawsuit filed by Marsden’s attorney, Lin Deola, “The individual(s) involved in the rebating reported by Marsden included employee(s) and personal friend(s)” of Frank.

Blue Cross in its statement said Marsden’s firing had nothing to do with a report of illegal activity.

“BCBSMT complied with the terms and conditions set forth in Ms. Marsden’s employment agreement,” the company said. “Ms. Marsden’s departure from BCBSMT was not related to any alleged inappropriate conduct by it or any of its employees.”

The company also said details of Marsden’s firing were private.

“As with any issues regarding current or past personnel matters, such matters are considered private and treated as such by BCBSMT, including the reason of Ms. Marsden’s departure from BCBSMT as its Chief Marketing Officer,” the company said.

The newspaper reported that the state insurance commissioner’s office was unable on Friday to say if Blue Cross was under any investigation concerning possible illegal rebates.

Such rebates have the potential to create higher insurance premiums and make it difficult for regulators to determine whether an insurance provider is capable of covering possible liabilities. The rebates are illegal in Montana