Federal bankruptcy judge grants sweeping immunity to Sackler family in $ 4.3 billion opioid settlement
In an example of class justice, the billionaire Sackler family, which fueled and profited immensely from the opioid epidemic through its company Purdue Pharma and its drug OxyContin, were immune last week to all future Opioid lawsuits by Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains. , New York. The ruling affirms the capitalist right to profit regardless of the cost in lives.
In the United States, more than 100 people die of opioid overdoses every day, with preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bringing the death toll for 2019 to nearly 50,000, an all-time high.
Justice Drain’s decision is part of a $ 4.3 billion bankruptcy settlement involving the Sacklers’ sale of their pharmaceutical holdings and the loss of ownership of Purdue Pharma. The ruling, which is exactly what the Sacklers asked for, grants waivers of liability for damage caused by the aggressive and sometimes illegal marketing of the discontinued opioid OxyContin and other opioids. This marketing involved a coordinated campaign to get doctors to prescribe opioids for chronic pain daily, which also included bribes to doctors.
In addition to the Sacklers themselves, hundreds of individuals and organizations associated with the Sacklers, such as lobbyists, financial advisers, public relations firms, law firms, drug manufacturers, and laboratories, as well as the rest of the Sackler business empire, are also granted immunity.
The immunity deal effectively puts an end to any further investigation into the role played by the Sacklers and their hundreds of associates in the opioid epidemic, despite the fact that there is extensive documentation of the involvement of the Sacklers. Sackler family in Purdue operations and profiting from the opioid epidemic, with Richard Sackler playing a key role in marketing the drug as an executive and even thereafter until 2012, while the former member of the Board of Directors Kathe Sackler bragged about having come up with the idea for OxyContin.
The Sacklers transferred billions from Purdue prior to the deal, storing them in other investments and offshore bank accounts that cannot be touched in the settlement.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged in 2020 that the Sacklers made a “fraudulent transfer” as part of a scheme to “hinder future creditors”, and the family settled those allegations to the tune of $ 225 million. of dollars while denying any wrongdoing in this matter as well.
The DOJ filed two legal briefs condemning the waiver of liability granted to the Sacklers and their associates under the bankruptcy deal on constitutional grounds, arguing that those with potential claims against the Sacklers would be disenfranchised due process without legal review or compensation.
Purdue Pharma and its lawyers have launched a lobbying campaign against the DOJ aimed at convincing them not to challenge the plan, with an early draft of a letter of this campaign obtained by National Public Radio.
For all of the deaths directly attributable to the management of the Purdue Sacklers, which pleaded guilty to criminal wrongdoing in its marketing of OxyContin in both 2007 and 2020, no apology has been made, and the Sacklers deny everything. wrongdoing. Drain cynically pointed out that “a forced apology isn’t really an apology… so we’ll have to live without it. “
Steve Miller, chairman of the board of directors of Purdue Pharma, said he was satisfied with the decision in a statement to NPR, saying, “Instead of years of value-destroying litigation, including between and among creditors, this plan ensures that billions of dollars will be spent helping the people and communities that have been affected by the opioid crisis.
The Purdue Pharma company will be allowed to continue producing and selling OxyContin and other opioid drugs.
According to a report by the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by US Representative Carolyn Maloney, the Sackler family’s wealth stands at $ 11 billion, accumulated “largely through sales. of OxyContin ”. The settlement means that the Sacklers will keep most of their fortune.
The report continues: “Members of the Sackler family pressured Purdue to use deceptive marketing practices to flood communities with this dangerous pain reliever, and now the Sackler family are trying to use Purdue bankruptcy proceedings to escape individual liability. of its role in fueling the opioid epidemic. This is exactly what happened.
House Democrats in April called for the passage of the “Sackler Act” that would supposedly prevent the Sacklers and other non-debtors in the agreement from enjoying immunity from prosecution. Details of the settlement were announced in October 2020, with liability protection having already been announced as part of the deal. Only the amount payable under the agreement has been increased since then, with no change in liability protection.
However, nothing was done by Democrats, who feigned surprise at the decision. Democrats and Republicans are inundated with money from drug companies, with the vast majority of Senate and House members, 72 Senators and 302 House of Representatives cashing a check from the pharmaceutical industry, according to analysis of Stat News published in June.
Purdue herself spent more than $ 1.2 million on lobbying in the year and a half leading up to the settlement, according to a review of lobbying records by T he intercepts, and reportedly oversaw the Sackler Act, among other proposed laws. He hired the same public relations firm, Purple Strategies, that BP hired following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
As the WSWS noted in December 2019, protection had already been granted to the Sacklers as the settlement was being resolved: “On November 6, Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain stayed all lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family until April 8, 2020 The extension of protection to the Sackler family was highly unusual as the Sacklers themselves have yet to file for bankruptcy. Even Judge Drain acknowledged that the order was “extraordinary”.
Drain hypocritically called his decision last week a “bitter result” and said that “I believe at least some of the Sackler parties are responsible for these [opioid OxyContin] complaints. … I would have expected a higher settlement.
Drain’s record reflects the class character of the judiciary as a tool of the corporate financial oligarchy and belies any surprise or mock indignation on the part of Democrats, who knew full well he would comply with the demand for immunity from the people. Sacklers.
- In 2006, Drain approved a plan by executives at Delphi Corporation to approve tens of millions of bonuses to executives at Delphi while auto workers by the hour faced a pay cut of up to $ 60. % and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, claiming it was necessary to make Delphi “competitive.”
- In 2012, Drain approved $ 1.75 million in bonuses for executive hostesses and shortly thereafter approved the liquidation of the business and the destruction of 15,000 jobs, the closure of bakeries, food centers. distribution and stores.
- In 2015, Drain voted in favor of the former supermarket chain A&P, reducing severance pay from around 2,500 workers to 52% of what they were entitled to under the collective agreement between the company and the unions that represent them.
This is just a small glimpse of the class justice that reigns not only in the court of Drain, but the capitalist legal system as a whole, as well as the free-riding of an economic system that profits from death and destruction. destruction.