There is one item on the legal agenda that could spur discussion.

Today, the Institutions for Higher Learning (IHL) Board will conduct their regular monthly meeting.  IHL Chair Tommy Duff will gavel in the meeting at 9:00 a.m.

IHL Minutes August 2022 by yallpolitics on Scribd

Amidst a broiling legal battle between the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), IHL members will meet to conduct their normal slate of business.

There is one item on the legal agenda regarding Blue Cross/UMMC.

UMMC – EMERGENCY APPROVAL TO HIRE HEIDELBERG, PATTERSON & WELCH, PLLC d/b/a HEIDELBERG PATTERSON WELCH WRIGHT AS OUTSIDE COUNSEL

Trustee Gee Ogletree, as Board Legal Committee Chair, on behalf of the Board, has approved UMMC’s emergency request to enter into a contract for professional legal services with the law firm of Heidelberg, Patterson & Welch, PLLC d/b/a Heidelberg Patterson Welch Wright, as outside counsel to advise and assist UMMC and King & Spalding, UMMC’s national outside counsel, in a dispute with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi. The contract term is three years from August 4, 2022 through August 3, 2025. The hourly rate is $295 for attorneys and $95 for paralegal services with a maximum amount payable of $1,500,000. This firm carries professional liability insurance coverage in the amount of $2,000,000 per claim with an annual aggregate of $2,000,000. This agreement has been approved by the Office of the Attorney General.

Members of UMMC’s management team are the subject of a defamation lawsuit by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi in the ongoing dispute.  Part of that lawsuit has included subpoenas of UMMC management teams and documentation seeking information on how messaging was coordinated with media outlets.  Mississippi Today and Supertalk were two of the outlets specified in the court filingMississippi Today has expended substantial resources on coverage that has been generally favorable to UMMC.  UMMC also recently began sponsoring Mississippi Today podcasts and video content.

Revelations also became public last week that the University of Mississippi Foundation serves as the trustee for the Mississippi Common Fund Trust, which has donated millions both to UMMC and to the online publication Mississippi Today in recent years.  Businessman Jim Barksdale is both a founding Board member of Mississippi Today and the primary benefactor for the Mississippi Common Fund Trust.  The address for the trust is the same as the University of Mississippi Foundation.

All three of the listed officers of the trust – Anna Langley, Wendell Weakley and Maggie Abernathy – are employees of the University of Mississippi Foundation.

Mississippi Today’s coverage has been highly critical of other IHL member institutions that compete with the University, namely Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.