Justice Dept. Subpoenas Guidant Attorney

The Justice Department has ordered an attorney to turn over documents indicating Guidant Corp. (GDT) continued selling some of its heart defibrillator models after knowing the devices could malfunction.

The subpoena, part of the federal government's investigation into the Indianapolis-based company, requires Texas attorney Bob Hilliard to turn over handwritten notes and PowerPoint slides. He obtained them from the company during preparations for a product liability case in Texas state court.

The 10 pages include notes from Fred McCoy, president of Guidant's cardiac rhythm management division, that show a decision was made to sell inventory the executive described as having sporadic "life-threatening" defects.

"It's consistent, bad decisions based on profit, not patient health," Hilliard told The Associated Press. "The documents I received from Guidant showed they were basically making the equivalent of the Ford Pinto."

Guidant spokesman Steve Tragash declined to comment.

Lewis did not return a phone call seeking comment on the subpoena, which was issued Tuesday.

Hilliard represents about 70 patients who are suing Guidant for providing them with faulty heart devices. The jury trial, scheduled to begin Feb. 20 in Corpus Christi, Texas, involves two patients with faulty defibrillators. It is the first of what could be several trials stemming from Guidant recalls over the last seven months.

Since June, Guidant has recalled or issued safety advisories for about 88,000 defibrillators and more than 200,000 pacemakers. At least seven deaths have been linked to the faulty devices.

The company faces regulatory investigations as well as multiple lawsuits from the recalls.

Analysts have predicted Guidant's liability from all the actions could reach as high as $2 billion.

Hilliard obtained the documents — part of 600,000 pages of Guidant records — during trial preparations.

Government officials also asked Hilliard to keep all the records from Guidant, including those not covered in the subpoena.

Guidant agreed Wednesday to a $27.2 billion acquisition by Natick, Mass.-based Boston Scientific Corp., ending a two-month-long bidding war with health products giant Johnson & Johnson. The takeover must still be approved by shareholders and regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

The company announced Friday that net income fell to $78.9 million, or 23 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31 from $104.5 million, or 32 cents per share, a year ago, as sales declined and product recalls and merger expenses continued.