Michael Bell ’97: Health Law Attorney, Entrepreneur
Bell is the first graduate to receive Seton Hall's Health Law concentration
“It was the right time to be at the intersection of healthcare compliance and technology,” Michael Bell ’97 said, explaining his decision to build R-Squared, which offers an integrated technology platform for mid-to-large size pharmaceutical and medical device companies. R-Squared enables companies to manage, monitor, and document their business practices consistent with legal and regulatory standards and protocols.
Bell’s timing was bold, leaving law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC in Washington D.C., where he was a new partner, to move to Princeton and pursue a start-up in 2008 – just ahead of the recession. “I didn't realize at the time that the bottom was going to fall out of the economy,” he said. “It was probably one of the harder times to venture out on your own, but the concept was right: fraud enforcement was on the rise, which buoyed our concept and enabled us to get R-Squared off the ground right away.”
“Mike has proven to be one of our most entrepreneurial health law alumni,” Dean Kathleen M. Boozang noted. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch him take his knowledge and experiences at Seton Hall and transform them into a very successful venture.”
Bell originally came to Seton Hall Law with no plans to study health law. “Then I met Dean Boozang, “he said, “and she suggested I take the Health Law survey course. After that, I used up every one of my electives on health law courses.” His path also included an externship in the Office of the General Counsel at John F. Kennedy Hospital in Edison, New Jersey, which Dean Boozang helped him obtain.
Ultimately, his dedication to the health law field led Bell to receive the very first concentration in Health Law conferred by Seton Hall Law. “I took everything from healthcare anti-trust, financial management of hospitals to managed care contracts,” he said. “It was only as I was graduating that they introduced the new Concentration in Health Law, effective the following year. I went to the Dean and said, 'Wait, I did all of this.'”
He quickly appreciated the value of his Seton Hall Law experience. “I came to Epstein Becker as a summer associate,” he said, “and as I worked with other associates, I realized I was light years ahead in terms of substantive knowledge, understanding and issue spotting because of all the practical coursework I had at Seton Hall.”
Soon after, when Bell left Epstein, Becker for Mintz, Levin, where his work with clients sparked his entrepreneurial thinking. “My focus was on healthcare fraud and reimbursement issues,” he said. “Then the HIPAA Privacy Rules came out and I dove headfirst into data privacy and security. Thereafter, it was aggregate spend/transparency disclosure - that’s where I saw the opportunity for a technology solution, emerging from proposed legislation as well as the trends in healthcare fraud settlements.”
Bell left the law firm but retained his relationship with the firm and his clients. He cemented a partnership with a Chief Technology Officer, “over lunch and a handshake,” who took on the hardware, coding, networking aspects of the company. “He and I sat in a room with a white board,” Bell said, “and I'd explain the law and how good evidence can be created, and we just started working out these concepts.” He consulted with clients while his programmers built the technology platform, investing the revenue back in the company.
Today, R-Squared is distinguished by its comprehensive technological approach to compliance management. Bell recently sold the company to IMS Health, a global information technology company serving the healthcare industry. “Companies come to us for a variety of different reasons,” Bell explained. “For instance, we have companies that have self-disclosed potential wrongdoing to the government or have been the subject of an investigation. In that context, having worked on these cases, you may be sitting on a draft corporate integrity agreement or a draft deferred prosecution agreement for as long as a year before it's actually signed, but the fuse is lit … In fact, we've had two clients, recently, who felt that the implementation of the R-Squared solution, at that time, was a key ingredient in getting a complete declination, a decision by the Department of Justice not to pursue an enforcement action against the company for its self-disclosure of potential wrongdoing.”
Today, though in-house compliance professionals are increasingly viewed as partners with the business rather than “cops,” proper compliance maintenance has never been more challenging. “Our clients are seeing new demands to be able to track, capture and report data regarding any financial transfer of value to a physician or other covered party,” he explained. “These transparency obligations that started in the U.S. are being rapidly adopted around the globe, which has resulted in the expansion of our solution around the globe and of our client base as well.”
Bell also helps ensure that professionals in the health and life sciences arena achieve proficiency in compliance. He is a devoted instructor in Seton Hall Law’s U.S. Healthcare Compliance Certification Program (HCCP), the curriculum for which he helped develop in 2004 along with Dean Boozang and other professionals. Twice a year he and co-lecturer Bruce Levy, a Director in the Criminal Defense practice of Gibbons P.C. in New Jersey, present “The Federal Anti-Kickback Statute” as part of the HCCP’s focus on fraud and abuse law.
“The HCCP certificate is a recognized credential in the life sciences industry,” Bell noted. “Bruce and I keep our content fresh from a current events perspective, and also, grounded solidly in the foundation of the law and what the government power players are trying to achieve. Because this is an audience that needs practical information, it's not an esoteric review of case law.”
Bell will continue to present at the HCCP, and is currently enabling IMS Health to integrate R-Squared into its organization. “It's an exciting time,” he said, “and an opportune time for introspection. You work so hard to achieve this kind of outcome, it’s a good time to look around at the things you hadn't paid attention to as much along the way.”
Michael Bell is pictured, center, with Simone Handler-Hutchinson, Assistant Dean for Graduate and Professional Education, and Timothy Glynn, Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Education.