More Medtronic kickback allegations; also: Feds raid Petters Group, NWA-Delta shareholders vote on merger, and Ameriprise bails out clients

How does a medical device company convince doctors that its products are the best? Take ’em to the strip club and pay for “VIP visits” with the dancers. The Wall Street Journal has obtained a copy of a sealed lawsuit complaint that alleges kickbacks to doctors such as strip-club visits were “pervasive” and “the culture and way of doing business” at Fridley-based Medtronic. The lawsuit was filed by a former Medtronic attorney who said she was dismissed after questioning some of the payments to doctors.

More Medtronic: Today’s WSJ article says the lawsuit alleges Medtronic seduced doctors with strip-club visits, trips to Alaska and royalty payments for inventions they played no role in. The allegations involve Medtronic’s spinal-devices unit, which is being investigated by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and also the target of more whistleblower lawsuits by former employees. The company declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal regarding the newly publicized lawsuit allegations.

Federal agents swarmed the Minnetonka headquarters of Petters Group Worldwide on Wednesday, but the target of the search wasn’t yet known this morning. The Star Tribune reported nearly 50 law-enforcement vehicles were on the scene as FBI, IRS and other agents hauled out boxes and other objects. A company statement said the probe “pertains to one financial entity” and doesn’t involved Sun Country Airlines, Polaroid, uBid, Fingerhut or Great Waters Media.

More Petters: Feds also searched the Wayzata home of founder Tom Petters. One commenter on the Star Tribune’s website notes that Petters specializes in acquiring struggling companies and turning them around, and that the federal probe could pertain to a recent acquisition with a shady past. “I won’t throw the guy under the bus just yet.” Meanwhile, some Sun Country ticket holders are worried about their flights, despite the airline’s assurance Wednesday that things are business as usual.

Delta and Northwest shareholders vote today on the airlines’ merger. It’s “one more item on the checklist for becoming the world’s biggest carrier,” the Associated Press reports. Meanwhile, a flight attendant union head told Congress Wednesday that Delta management is interfering with unionizing efforts. Rep. James Oberstar said, “The deck is sort of way stacked against unionization.” Delta flight attendants are expected to try another union vote after they are joined in the company by Northwest flight attendants.

Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial will commit up to $33 million to protect clients from losses associated with the Primary Fund, a money-market mutual fund that dropped below the $1 per share mark last week. Ameriprise has also filed a lawsuit against the company that manages the fund, alleging it tipped off some large investors about the fund’s troubles before the news became public.

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