Sacklers Withdrew Billions Amid Opioid Scrutiny

Audit raises new questions about whether $3B settlement offer by Purdue Pharma is enough
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2019 6:42 AM CST
Sacklers Withdrew Billions Amid Opioid Scrutiny
The Rooksnest estate near Lambourn, England, which is owned by the Sackler family.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

A new audit related to the Sackler family's vast wealth shows that family members withdrew more than $10 billion from their pharmaceutical company as the scope of the nation's opioid crisis became clearer, reports the New York Times. The AP notes this contrast: From 1995 through 2007, the Sacklers withdrew $1.3 billion from Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. But from 2008 through 2017—after the company was fined for misleading marketing—the withdrawals ramped up to north of $10 billion. The specific breakdown: $4.1 billion to the Sacklers, $1.6 billion to affiliated companies, and $4.6 billion for taxes, per the Wall Street Journal. Critics say this suggests the family began squirreling away billions to protect itself from coming litigation, and they say it makes the family's offer of $3 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits seem too small.

"The fact that the Sackler family removed more than $10 billion when Purdue’s OxyContin was directly causing countless addictions, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and tearing apart millions of families is further reason that we must see detailed financial records showing how much the Sacklers profited from the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic," says Letitia James, attorney general of New York. A Sackler family attorney, however, says everything was above-board. The audit by Axis Partners, which is guiding Purdue through bankruptcy, "reflects the fact that more than half was paid in taxes and reinvested in businesses that will be sold as part of the proposed settlement," says Daniel Connolly. The audit does not state the family's net worth. The Sacklers have threatened to withdraw the settlement offer if lawsuits against the family itself, as opposed to Purdue, continue. (More Sackler stories.)

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