Heir: Sacklers won’t settle unless freed from opioid suits

Aug 17, 2021, 10:38 AM | Updated: Aug 18, 2021, 2:02 pm

Members of the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma won’t contribute billions of dollars to a legal settlement unless they get off the hook for all current and future lawsuits over the company’s activities, one of them told a court Tuesday in a rare public appearance.

David Sackler, grandson of one of the brothers who nearly 70 years ago bought the company that later became Purdue, testified at a hearing in federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, that unless the settlement is approved with those protections included, as they currently are, “I believe we would litigate the claims to their final outcomes.”

“We need a release that’s sufficient to get our goals accomplished,” Sackler said in response to questions from a lawyer for the U.S. bankruptcy trustee. “If the release fails to do that, we will not support it.”

That’s the heart of argument over the settlement plans of the family and the company, based in Stamford, Connecticut.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, nine states and the District of Columbia are objecting to the company’s settlement plan largely because it would grant legal protection to members of the wealthy Sackler family even though none of them are declaring bankruptcy themselves.

The concept has sparked protests, as well as federal legislation known as the SACKLER Act that would bar these deals, known as third-party releases. They are granted by bankruptcy courts in some parts of the U.S., but not all. The bill has sputtered in Congress.

Suits against the company and the Sacklers, including from several states, have been paused since Purdue filed for bankruptcy nearly two years ago. If the reorganization is approved as it is, it would freeze those forever. Sackler family members are also seeking protections from future lawsuits over opioids and any actions involving Purdue, even those that had nothing to do with the drugs.

The deal would not protect Sackler family members from any criminal charges. None have been announced against family members.

The Purdue reorganization plan does have costs for Sackler family members. They would be required to give up ownership of the company, with future profits going to abate the opioid crisis. They would also have to contribute a total of $4.5 billion in cash and a charitable fund over time. That money is also slated to go to efforts to battle the crisis, with a share of it going to victims and their families.

But a report commissioned by a group of state attorneys general said that because most of the payments come years from now, family members could use investment returns and interest to build even greater wealth while they make the payments. The assumptions in that report came under attack from a Sackler lawyer in Tuesday’s testimony.

The family’s collective wealth is estimated at nearly $11 billion, with much of that built on sales from OxyContin.

In the hearing Tuesday, David Sackler, who served on the company’s board from 2012 until 2018, was asked whether the family would emerge with more money in a decade when its share would be paid off, than it has now.

“I don’t think anyone can say that with certainty,” he said.

The plan is that sales of other companies, mostly international drug companies owned by the family, would fund their payments in the settlement, he said.

Sackler, who also testified before a congressional committee late last year, stopped short both then and Tuesday of an apology for the family or company’s role in the opioid crisis, which has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone since 2000.

Because the company marketed an opioid, Sackler said, “we bear moral responsibility to try to help, and that’s what this settlement is designed to do.”

He was later asked if the company has legal responsibility for the toll of opioids. “We don’t believe our conduct was illegal in any way,” he said. “We want to help.”

Family members have long taken a low profile in the business world but a public role in philanthropy. Amid protests over its role in the opioid business, it has seen its name removed in recent years from wings and galleries at institutions including the Louvre in Paris. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is reviewing the matter.

During questioning from Maryland Assistant Attorney General Brian Edmunds, Sackler said that when he first joined the board of his family’s company nearly a decade ago, he hoped that selling more OxyContin would help fix the burgeoning addiction and overdose crisis.

The company had just introduced a reformulated version of the powerful painkiller that was harder to tamper with to give users a faster high.

“It had been successful in reducing the incidence of nasal ingestion and abuse,” Sackler said. “The idea of increasing sales was to take market share from non-abuse-deterrent products, thereby reducing abuse of the category and a whole and reducing opioid overdoses.”

Instead, Purdue’s market share declined. And opioid overdoses, increasingly from heroin and later illicitly produced synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, continued to increase.

Fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S. reached a record of over 70,000 last year.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee was the only office of the U.S. Department of Justice to object to the settlement, instead of two Justice Department offices objecting.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Reports say 2022 was good for Nevada casinos, Vegas tourism

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The year 2022 was good for gambling and tourism in Nevada, where winnings at casinos statewide set calendar year records and Las Vegas visitor tallies nearly reached levels before the coronavirus pandemic. “Las Vegas enjoyed a robust recovery trajectory across core tourism indicators in 2022,” the regional Convention and Visitors Authority […]
16 hours ago
Elliot Morehead, 16 of Sioux Falls, tells a House Health and Human Services committee Tuesday, Jan....
Associated Press

S. Dakota lawmakers push bill to bar transgender youth care

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A state House committee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth in South Dakota. Supporters argued a bill barring youth from accessing puberty blockers, hormones and surgery would protect adolescents from irreversible damage, while opponents argued it only blocks them from becoming their authentic […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

GM conditionally OKs $650M Nevada lithium mine investment

RENO, Nev. (AP) — General Motors Co. has conditionally agreed to invest $650 million in Lithium Americas Corp. in a deal that will give GM exclusive access to the first phase of a mine planned near the Nevada-Oregon line with the largest known source of lithium in the U.S. The equity investment the companies announced […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Travelers wade through the line to drop off bags at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter ...
Associated Press

Lawmakers aim to raise penalties for US airline disruptions

Senators who want to impose tougher penalties when U.S. airlines strand or delay passengers say they finally might be able to turn their ideas into law because of outrage over debacles like the one at Southwest Airlines in December. Democrats Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts said Tuesday they will again offer […]
16 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden, right, at the top of a meeting with congressional leaders to discuss le...
Associated Press

Biden, McCarthy, once breakfast mates, wrangle over US debt

WASHINGTON (AP) — Not so long ago, Joe Biden and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy used to talk things over at breakfast in Biden’s vice presidential home at the Naval Observatory. Biden was intent in those days on “keeping up relations with the opposition party,” as he writes in his memoir, and the new House majority […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Vermont lawmakers mull bills to protect abortion providers

Vermont lawmakers are taking testimony on a pair of bills that aim to protect health care workers who provide abortions and gender-affirming health care in Vermont from legal and disciplinary action from states that limit or ban those practices. The bills were introduced seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Heir: Sacklers won’t settle unless freed from opioid suits