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Purdue Pharma Heir Makes a Big Demand

He says Sackler family won't settle unless they are freed from opioid lawsuits
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 17, 2021 6:05 PM CDT
Heir: Sacklers Won't Settle Unless Freed From Opioid Suits
In this image from House Television on Dec. 17, 2020, David Sackler, a member of the family that owns Purdue Pharma testifies via video to a House Oversight Committee hearing.   (House Television via AP, File)

(Newser) – 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, NY 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 US bankruptcy trustee. "If the release fails to do that, we will not support it.” From the AP:

  • Objections to the plan. That's the heart of argument over the settlement plans of the family and the company, based in Stamford, Connecticut. The US 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.

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  • Protests and legislation. 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 US, but not all. The bill has sputtered in Congress.
  • Suits would be frozen forever. 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
  • Costs for the Sacklers. 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.
  • They could still get richer. 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 family's collective wealth is estimated at nearly $11 billion, with much of that built on sales from OxyContin.
  • No apology. 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 US 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."
(Read more Purdue Pharma stories.)

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