In the first story of this series, 1819 News reported that the former State House Speaker, Mac McCutcheon, worked as a consultant for an Alabama-based medical testing company called QBR LLC. QBR has recently been targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice, and its CEO has pleaded guilty to fraud.
Numerous others associated with the company have been either convicted or pleaded guilty to health-care-related charges. According to financial documents obtained by 1819 News, Mac McCutcheon and his Practical Approach Consulting Group were paid at least $90,000 by QBR LLC in 2013, the latter half of 2015 and the first half of 2016. A draft organizational chart from 2012, around the time the company got started, described Mac McCutcheon’s role at QBR as “government liaison, business and public relations." Practical Approach Consulting was incorporated in December 2014. Christopher McCutcheon, Mac’s son and a former 49% owner of QBR, is listed as the initial registered agent. Mac McCutcheon is listed as president, secretary and treasurer.
McCutcheon was first elected to the State House in 2006. He served as House Rules Committee chairman before being elected Alabama House Speaker in 2016. He did not run for reelection in 2022.
Governor Kay Ivey recently appointed him to be the chairman of the Madison County Commission. He will be installed on Feb.15, 2023.
The McCutcheons have not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing by federal authorities. But their influence was used to help with regulatory and legal issues the company faced at the state level.
1819 News has obtained documents that show McCutcheon arranged for QBR’s Service Providers Agreement to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office in early 2012; set up a meeting between QBR’s CEO and a high-ranking Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama official in March 2012; and contacted Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2015 about a proposed rule change which would have adversely impacted QBR.
1819 News has also recently uncovered documents showing that Mac McCutcheon intervened in the legislative process by sponsoring a resolution directly related to QBR’s core business, neuropathy testing.
On Mar. 20, 2013, McCutcheon introduced HJR 171, a resolution recognizing April 2013 as “Neuropathy Awareness Month." The content for the “Neuropathy Awareness Month” resolution came directly from the CEO of QBR, John Hornbuckle. In documents obtained by 1819 News, Hornbuckle wrote a memo outlining the language QBR wanted in the resolution.
HJR 171 urged four actions:
HJR 171: The delivery of neuropathy coverage and care by governmental agencies and medical providers
Hornbuckle document: Urge legislators, government agencies, and medical providers to deliver neuropathy coverage, care, optional in-house ancillary services and treatment.
HJR 171: The increased understanding of the scope and impact of neuropathy by health officials and the public.
Hornbuckle document: Increase public awareness and understanding of neuropathy’s scope and impact.
HJR 171: The increased funding of private and public research
Hornbuckle document: Fund and encourage funding of neuropathy research.
HJR 171: The increased support of patients through such resources as eNeuropathy Awareness, eNeuropathy Research, and eNeuropathy Education, with Diagnostic Referral Community and ionDermaHealth.
Hornbuckle Document: We must join together with increasing neuropathy e-Neuropathy ™Awareness, promote critical e-Neuropathy™Research for effective treatments and cures, provide our community with the e-Neuropathy™ Education it needs, offer patient e-Neuropathy™ Support, and speak out with e-Neuropathy™ Advocacy.
The fourth point leaves little doubt that Hornbuckle provided the language for HJR 171 — the eNeuropathy Awareness, Research and Education, Diagnostic Referral Community and ionDermaHealth are all trademarks owned by QBR LLC. QBR LLC did business as ionDermaHealth.
Mac McCutcheon then shepherded the resolution through the Alabama State Legislature. On Mar. 20, 2013, he introduced Alabama House Joint Resolution 171, “Recognizing April 2013 as Neuropathy Awareness Month.” The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee, which McCutcheon chaired. The Rules Committee approved the resolution, which then passed both the House and Senate.
Resolution 171 was delivered to the Alabama Governor on May 7, 2013, along with a host of other resolutions. HJR 95, for example, designated Feb. 28, 2013, as Alabama Rare Disease Awareness Day and May 15, 2013, as MPS Awareness Day. HJR 96 recognized the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Another resolution, HJR 32, urged the city of Rogersville to host the Alabama Blue Grass Instruments Championships.
In this regard, the Neuropathy Resolution may appear to be just one of a dozen innocuous resolutions that most people could agree on. After all, who could oppose a fiddlers’ convention, a rare disease awareness day or treating neuropathy?
Nevertheless, HJR 171 is different from these other resolutions. Hornbuckle, who had a commercial interest in neuropathy, drew up the language for the resolution. Then-State Rep. Mac McCutcheon, already working as a consultant for QBR and with a financial interest in the success of QBR, introduced it and pushed it through the legislature.
HJR 171 may not have had the force of law, but, at a minimum, the resolution represented a public relations boost for the company. CEO John Hornbuckle and CFO Chris McCutcheon did not hesitate to incorporate this into their marketing by pointing to the resolution in a brochure advertising its services: “Recognized for making April 2013 Neuropathy Awareness Month for the State of Alabama.” Diagnostic Referral Community (DRC), from Point 4 of HJR 171, is featured prominently throughout the brochure.
The brochure was a trifold template, printed and handed out at events like physicians' conventions. QBR representatives provided brochures to the attending physicians as part of their sales pitches. QBR salesmen also brought the trifolds to doctors’ offices at in-person sales meetings.
In an email to 1819, McCutcheon stated: "My association with QBR was based on helping the company get started. I was contracted to do consultant work for the business start-up. I was retiring from the City of Huntsville in 2013 and began my consulting business as a source of income due to the fact that the Legislative work is part-time. I never did any lobbying work for QBR or any other client. As QBR got operational as a company, I discontinued my services.”
Mac McCutcheon claims he “discontinued” his services as the company got operational and denied he did any lobbying for QBR. 1819 News has shown that he received payment for his services into 2016, long after the company was operational. In addition, McCutcheon leveraged his legislative position to introduce HJR 171, directly benefiting QBR.
In the next article in this series, we will discuss how Chris McCutcheon’s role at QBR and how the relationship between the two co-founders of QBR, the CEO John Hornbuckle and CFO Chris McCutcheon, deteriorated. The resulting lawsuits and financial settlements led to the dissolution of the company.
Bryan Dawson is the president and CEO of 1819 News
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