At a press conference Thursday to announce the settlement, the Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota attorneys general pointedly noted that they had asked the Sacklers for years to admit guilt and apologize, but family members refused.
Government lawyers said that instead of spending years looking for more money to meet urgent needs created by the opioid epidemic, they agreed to step back in order to free funds faster.
New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and California Democrat Mark DeSaulnier introduced a law they call the Sackler Act that would allow states to prosecute company owners in bankruptcy proceedings that the attorneys general are tracking down strongly support own statements. But even if Congress passed such a law, the attorneys general added, the Sacklers and Purdue would almost certainly have closed the case long ago and would have escaped the scope of the bill.
As such, Purdue will cease to exist as such and re-emerge as a new company that would manufacture limited quantities of OxyContin and overdose reversal drugs, according to the overall bankruptcy filing. It would be overseen by an appointed board of directors. The profits would feed payments to funds for distant plaintiffs that would primarily support drug treatment and prevention programs.
Lawyers involved in the negotiations underlined the importance of the public document archive, which can hardly be surpassed in its breadth and depth. Although Purdue has already produced 13 million documents during the litigation, it has now added 20 million more. The size of this one company’s documents rivals that uncovered by the entire tobacco industry, a coveted consequence of the Big Tobacco litigation some 20 years ago.
The Purdue documents will contain statements, emails, and letters that go back two decades. They are expected to reveal detailed details of Purdue’s behind-the-scenes contacts with federal investigators and Food and Drug Administration officials as the company fended off tougher penalties for promoting turbo sales that touted OxyContin as effective and non-addictive. Experts assume that the considerations and mandates of Dr. Richard Sackler, a former President and CEO of Purdue.
In Thursday’s briefing, Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general who was the first to suing Sacklers, said the document pool served as a promise to the families of opioid victims. “It will tell the whole story, all of the conversations, all of the discussions, all of the planning, all of the ways they make money and evade accountability and regulation,” she said.