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Jay Z’s Roc Nation Alleges Scare Tactics in Prison Covid Suit

June 23, 2020, 9:04 PM

Jay-Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation moved Tuesday to quash subpoenas related to an investor lawsuit it’s backing that claims Centene Corp. “profits off of the brutality of the prison system” by “providing substandard and ineffective medical care” to inmates, including those suffering from the coronavirus.

“Through these subpoenas seeking information unnecessary for and unrelated to the narrow scope of this action, Centene seeks to employ the age-old tactic of intimidation to shield its records from public eye,” Roc Nation says in a Delaware Chancery Court filing.

“Particularly in light of protests in recent weeks raising the alarm about the inequitable treatment of people of color,” the filing says, “this court should reject Centene’s attempt through these subpoenas to abuse the narrow discovery mechanism.”

The suit targets Centene’s Centurion unit, which provides prison medical services for 16 states. It accuses Centurion of downplaying coronavirus risks and blames the company for “increasingly routine” deaths—including from Covid-19 and suicide—at the facilities where it operates.

The suit, filed by a trust invested in Centene, invokes a Delaware law giving corporate shareholders expansive inspection rights if they credibly suspect board wrongdoing.

“A stockholder concerned about the conduct of a company overseeing a human rights crisis has two options: sell its shares or demand answers,” the May 28 complaint said.

It specifically requests records relating to Mississippi’s Parchman prison, where at least one inmate had died of Covid-19 by the time the suit was filed.

A Centurion spokeswoman said last month that the company “looks forward to sharing more” over the course of the case.

“Centurion and its board of directors are proud of the company’s history of providing outstanding and innovative health care solutions to this vulnerable population,” she said.

Centene filed court papers June 15 disputing that the suit stated a proper inspection purpose.

It subsequently hit Roc Nation and the trust’s attorneys, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, with subpoenas seeking their communications with Centene shareholders, the news media, and a different law firm involved in a separate lawsuit backed by Jay-Z challenging Mississippi prison conditions.

But the suit’s “repeatedly stated” purpose is to investigate potential misconduct, regardless of Centene’s “hunch” that it’s just trying to drum up files for the Mississippi case, according to a joint motion filed by Roc Nation, Quinn Emanuel, and the trust.

Centene’s subpoenas “must be quashed” because neither relates to that narrow issue, they argue.

“Any other outcome” would let Centene “send their agents to harass anyone who challenged them,” the motion says.

The trust is also represented by McCarter & English LLP. Centene is represented by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

The case is Wood v. Centene Corp., Del. Ch., No. 2020-0404, motion to quash filed 6/23/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Leonard in Washington at mleonard@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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