‘Catastrophic Injustice’: Judge OKs Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Plan Shielding Sacklers

Yves here. I have to confess to not following the Sackler/Purdue Pharma gimmie, um, settlement closely because it was clear justice was not going to be served. Give enough money to art museums (the Sacklers bought Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum an entire new building in the early 1980s) and hospitals and you become immune to prosecution.

Top bankruptcy expert, professor Adam Levitin, has been critical of the open way that Purdue venue-shopped to get Judge [Down the] Drain:

Purdue Pharma continues to peddle some malarkey about why it filed for bankruptcy in White Plains, New York. In response to my House Judiciary testimony yesterday, Purdue told the Stamford Advocate:

Purdue Pharma Inc., the general partner of Purdue Pharma LP, has been a N.Y. corporation since its incorporation on Oct. 1, 1990. White Plains is about 15 miles from our corporate headquarters and is the closest federal bankruptcy courthouse. Thus it was the most appropriate place for us to file.

Let’s get real. Purdue—and that really means the Sacklers, who were still in control when Purdue’s bankruptcy filing strategy was worked out—filed in White Plains because it wanted its case to be heard by Judge Robert Drain. If Judge Michael Wiles—who has held that bankruptcy courts do not have the power to issue third-party releases—had been the judge sitting in White Plains, there’s no chance Purdue would have gone anywhere near White Plains. On top of that, Purdue’s claim about convenience doesn’t pass the smell test. Convenience to corporate headquarters is never a real consideration in bankruptcy filings. If it were, would GM and Chrysler have filed in NY? Would Nieman Marcus or Belk have filed in Houston? Would anybody ever file in Delaware?….

Well, 198 days before filing for bankruptcy, Purdue Pharma, Inc., changed its service of process agent to one with a White Plains address. That’s a post office box for all purposes, and the local case assignment rule says that post office boxes don’t count. Now remember who was in control of Purdue 198 days before the bankruptcy filing: the Sacklers, not the independent committee.

Lest you think that this change of process agent might have been routine corporate maintenance, around the same time Purdue also restated its certificate of incorporation. The restated certificate specified that a copy of any process served should be sent to the law firm of Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP, attention Marshall S. Huebner. Mr. Huebner, is, of course, Purdue’s bankruptcy attorney. All of these changes were being done in preparation for bankruptcy, and they all occurred when the Sacklers were firmly in control of Purdue, meaning that the changes were being done for the benefit of the Sacklers.

Now to a wrap-up of the sorry denouement.

By Jessica Corbett. Originally published at Common Dreams

In a bench ruling delivered over several hours on Wednesday, a U.S. judge approved a Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan widely criticized for giving the Sackler family immunity from civil lawsuits related to the company’s drug OxyContin and and profiteering that critics say escalated the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“The deal grants ‘releases’ from liability for harm caused by OxyContin and other opioids to the Sacklers, hundreds of their associates, as well as their remaining empire of companies and trusts,” NPR explained.

In a statement condemning the development, Rick Claypool, a research director for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said that “allowing the billionaires at the root of the opioid crisis to walk free while thousands of its victims are in prison is a catastrophic injustice.”

“Purdue Pharma is the reason the Sackler family are billionaires, and after today’s settlement they will remain billionaires,” Claypool continued. “The greed of some Sacklers fueled an opioid epidemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans, gripped millions in the claws of addiction, devastated communities across the country, and cost over $2.5 trillion.”

The researcher noted that “meanwhile, on any given day, 450,000 incarcerated people are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes.”

“The Biden administration has the authority to pursue leniency for nonviolent drug offenders, whose unnecessary and cruel incarceration must be replaced with support to help communities heal the raw wounds the opioid epidemic left behind,” Claypool said.

“The administration also has the authority to continue the last administration’s criminal investigation and indict any member of the Sackler family who committed crimes while pursuing opioid profits,” he added. “On both fronts, the administration should exercise its authority without delay.”

As Reuters detailed, the bankruptcy plan, valued at more than $10 billion, will “dissolve the drugmaker and shift assets to a new company owned by a trust rather than the Sackler family members.”

Reuters continued:

The Sacklers have denied allegations, raised in lawsuits and elsewhere, that they bear responsibility for the U.S. opioid epidemic. They have said they acted ethically and lawfully while serving on Purdue’s board.

The Purdue bankruptcy plan includes a $4.5 billion contribution from Sackler family members. The contribution is in the form of cash that would be paid over roughly a decade and also includes $175 million in value from relinquishing control of charitable institutions.

Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, “provisionally approved the plan, saying he wanted modest adjustments,” according to the New York Times.

Journalists live-tweeting the orally delivered ruling reported that Drain declared that “this is not the Sacklers’ plan,” despite the civil immunity from opioid cases being a key goal of family members.

Adam Levitin, a Georgetown Law professor specializing in bankruptcy, pushed back against Drain’s criticism of reporters, academics, and lawmakers and argued that the plan aligns with what the Sacklers wanted.

“Drain’s shifting the goal posts and setting up a strawman,” he said. “No one informed is claiming that the Sacklers are getting criminal immunity. They’re just keeping a multi-billion dollar fortune despite having wrought terrible harm to millions of people.”

Brian Mann of NPR noted that although Drain said the plan wasn’t defined by the Sacklers, he also acknowledged “at length that members of the family placed their wealth (which [the judge] estimates at $11 billion) offshore where there is ‘a substantial issue of collectability.'”

“It is incredibly frustrating that people can send their money offshore,” said Drain. The judge also highlighted the lack of apology from the Sackler family, adding that “a forced apology is not really an apology, so we will have to live without one.”

Journalist Gerald Posner, author of the book PHARMA, shared various lines of the bench ruling, including Drain’s point that prosecutors could pursue criminal claims against the Sacklers.

Though the Sacklers have never been charged and maintaintheir position that the family has no responsibility for the opioid crisis, NPR noted last week that “Purdue Pharma has pleaded guilty twice to criminal wrongdoing in its marketing of OxyContin, first in 2007 and again last year.”

The outlet also reported Tuesday on Purdue Pharma’s “stealth campaign” aimed at preventing a potential appeal of the bankruptcy settlement by the U.S. Justice Department.

According to Reuters, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is also “preparing to appeal if necessary.”

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      1. Harry

        I knew there was a USP. But if you crush up, and dissolve Oxy, can you still inject it? Judging from some syringes I found in rental units the answer is yes!

  1. BillS

    OK..the Sacklers offshored their fortune and “collection” might be an issue. Where is that vaunted enforcement arm of the Treasury Department? Are there not assets in the USA that could be seized as well? I guess asset seizure is only for the little people.

    These guys could teach Don Corleone a thing or two about slithering out of legal trouble.

    1. jsn

      That’s what the Reagan Revolution was all about, various Mobs going legit by getting to rewrite the rules to make their cons, grifts, thefts and murders legal. “Deregulation”

    2. LowellHighlander

      I like your point about asset seizure.

      When I was a grad student at the University of Maine (years ago), I became involved in the [local] movement up there to repeal Prohibition (against marijuana) because I had heard from those already working on the issue that people’s houses and other assets were being seized by the cops once they had been arrested for smoking/ingesting marijuana, often for medicinal reasons. This apparently forced a few people to leave the country. I’m no lawyer, but I think the U.S. Constitution is supposed to guarantee that no one can be deprived of their property without “due process”.

      As Glenn Greenwald spelled out in his book With Justice for Some, the hammer of justice is wielded only against little people, and especially on Blacks and Hispanics (but also on poorer Whites, to be sure). People like the Sacklers don’t have to fear justice.

      We’ll find out for sure, one way or the other, by the U.S. Department of Injustice’s deciding to prosecute the Sacklers or not.

  2. Ian Perkins

    I’d like to know why the regulators are receiving so little attention. It had been well known for decades that opioid painkillers are addictive, with all attempts to find one that wasn’t failing. The effective claim that mass prescribing of Oxycontin would not result in mass addiction should therefore have been seen as an extraordinary claim, demanding extraordinary supporting evidence. Instead, the regulators approved Oxycontin based on extremely flimsy evidence – as I recall, a study, essentially conducted by Purdue Pharma, of 63 patients in a tightly controlled setting.
    Yes, Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers bear responsibility for the Oxycontin mess, but so do those who approved its widespread use and marketing.

    1. Pat

      Ian, I am surprised you didn’t think to rage against the judge. And next time you might want to ask what about the doctors that prescribed the drug. Aren’t they really to blame, I mean they had to have noticed that their patients were getting hooked. Just saying you might want to change your almost word for word comment that appears whenever the chicanery of those walking sacks of human excrement is brought up.

      But in a more respectful response, who corrupted the regulators and the regulatory process, the psychopathic CEOs. Who purchased also known as contributed generously to the politicians that weakened the laws, the psychopathic corporate owners. Etc…etc…etc. Holding the Sacklers feet to the fire and treating them the same as any street pusher would do more to change things than firing a few nameless regulators. The Sacklers, Sacklers wannabes, the various venture capitalists and so on won’t even blink an eye and will keep on running rough shod over the system as they rape and pillage society. The Sacklers have no trouble sleeping because of all the people they killed, but they had some brief insomnia as they set up their get out of liability plans. That they were successful means they will sleep like babies, those penny ante bureaucrats losing their jobs and pensions wouldn’t cause a blip. Personal loss for those in charge is not only justice, it is necessary to change the broken system.

      1. Ian Perkins

        I didn’t call for merely ‘firing a few nameless regulators.’ I see them as just as much ‘walking sacks of human excrement’ as the Sacklers, and just as deserving of real punishment. Their job, as I understand it, is protecting the public, and it should have been obvious to them the public needed protection from Oxycontin. Corruption works both ways – unless the Sacklers threatened the regulators or their families, they were willing participants in this scheme to flood the USA with opioids. As for doctors, maybe they were asleep or absent when told about the addictive potential of all known opioid analgesics (if they ever were), and besides, they had the effective assurance from above that all would be well. I’d prefer a less harsh punishment, if any, for them than for the Sacklers, the regulators – and the judge.
        “Personal loss for those in charge is not only justice, it is necessary to change the broken system.” – I don’t see why the personal loss should be restricted to the Sacklers, who weren’t in charge of the system.
        All wishful thinking in the end, as none of them are likely to suffer any personal loss or lose much sleep over the whole affair.

        1. Pat

          We absolutely agree on the last statement.

          And I do not absolve the regulators. Don’t get me wrong I would like to overhaul the FDA,. To me the actual regulators are like building inspectors ignoring violations after finding a hundred in their hand from the handshake. Without that overhaul I I think that going after the regulators is like trying to eliminate prostitution by arresting street hookers, as in too low on the food chain to change anything.

          But to go back to our point of agreement, the system is NOT going to work. We may just be demanding outrage to effect change from different directions. I will keep pointing the spotlight on the people most responsible not just for the development, the massive distribution and the blind eye turned on OxyContin, the ones who walked away with millions upon millions who will suffer not at all. Rage at them could perhaps demand that the system eliminate some of their advantages. You keep trying to hammer the regulators.

          1. Ian Perkins

            I’m not trying to hammer the regulators any more than the Sacklers. In my view, they’re equally responsible in their different ways, but nearly all the outrage seems directed at the latter, whose motive is profit, while the former are supposed to be concerned with protection, yet their abject failure is routinely ignored.

            Other than that, I suspect our agreement outweighs our disagreement!

  3. Tom Stone

    Look at the posts and links at NC over the last week, the corruption and injustice are so pervasive and in your face that I don’t see how things can hold together much longer.

      1. MK

        It won’t change until something such as EBT/SS/SNAP funds stop being delivered to the masses. Then some might start to wake up and look around.

      2. notabanker

        It’s been accelerating rapidly year over year since 2008. It’s unsustainable and eventually the pitchforks will come out.

  4. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Yes Ian as it’s pretty obvious that the regulatory framework is not fit for purpose, assuming that purpose is the populations health & wellbeing. No gigantic & expensive RCT needed for that gateway drug but oh well, people got rich & I wonder what would be the considered acceptable level of collateral damage for TPTB when in comes to dealing in various levels of dodgy drugs.

    1. Ian Perkins

      No gigantic & expensive RCT was needed for Oxycontin with regard to addiction. A very effective, albeit ethically dubious, test of its addictive potential would have been to dish it out free to some junkies for a month, then suddenly cut off the supply – and watch how they reacted. I strongly suspect the results would have confirmed they saw it as more or less equivalent to heroin.

  5. Matthew G. Saroff

    While I am generally opposed to civil asset forfeiture, I’d like to see it applied in this case, as it is NOT covered by Drain’s ruling.

    This is making Drain’s disgraceful cover up of the looting of Sears by Eddie Lampert look like Gideon v. Wainwright.

  6. William Hunter Duncan

    We truly are at a late stage in this empire, that the elite of this nation think this looks like justice. Judge Drain trying to paper over his culpability in this gross indignity, is emblematic of his class passing on accountability for anything, and their general disdain for drug addled riff raff deplorables and deaths of destitution and despair.

    Still, I sense demons gathering around the Sacklers. So many dead will have their revenge, I think.

  7. Jokerstein

    I heard a report that the WA AG, plus eight (?) other state AGs, plus the DOJ have already filed appeals.

  8. Watt4Bob

    Meanwhile people at the other end of the economic spectrum can have their property seized by law enforcement because their possession seems ‘suspicious‘.

    The link is to a story of asset forfeiture and ‘adoption’, a process I hadn’t heard of before;

    The “adoption” maneuver is particularly controversial, they say, because it involves federal law enforcement using its power to encourage a seizure by state police. Much of the forfeited property ultimately goes back to the state agency if it’s not returned to the original owner, and advocates say many owners don’t have the means or sophistication to get their items back.

    Innocent people can, and do lose everything because they are ‘suspected’ of a crime, convicted drug dealers get to keep their ill-gotten fortunes because they’re rich?

  9. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    The Sacklers also donated to the arts in London or, more accurately, bought their way into London society like other American oligarchs a century or more earlier. The royals and some others are distancing themselves, but most, largely parvenus like the Sacklers, are not.

    1. Questa Nota

      The NC cycle is complete, after a fashion, with the crapification of parvenus! They aren’t making them like they used to.

  10. Skip Intro

    They might look like a big ham sandwich for an ambitious prosecutor with a grand jury and little to lose.

  11. Greg

    This was interesting to me:
    “The greed of some Sacklers fueled an opioid epidemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans, gripped millions in the claws of addiction, devastated communities across the country, and cost over $2.5 trillion.”


    Brian Mann of NPR noted that although Drain said the plan wasn’t defined by the Sacklers, he also acknowledged “at length that members of the family placed their wealth (which [the judge] estimates at $11 billion) offshore where there is ‘a substantial issue of collectability.’”

    So the sacklers burnt $2.5tn of public money to put $11bn in their own pockets – that’s a conversion rate of 227:1 on becoming a billionaire.
    I wonder what the true cost of the billions others have put in their pockets is? You’ve got to imagine a trillion for Bezos cost the public at least a hundred trillion, right? It’d be cheaper for the public to just give ten billion dollars to each sociopath and bar them from any other income or ownership.

  12. Tom Stone

    As someone who spent a decade collecting
    “Uncollectable” debts prior to the computer age I doubt very much that those overseas assets are beyond the reach of US Creditors who are sufficiently motivated.
    I dealt with debts that had been returned by at least two collection agencies as uncollectible for 10% of the gross and made a decent income doing so in the 1980’s.
    And the OUTRAGE of those who had “Gotten away with it” for years was something to behold.

  13. The Rev Kev

    Something for the early hours of the morning. Was just thinking of the hundreds of thousands killed because of what the Sackler family did. Add in the millions of lives ruined, the hundreds of thousands imprisoned and the societal damage done, how can you ever repair what that family did? You can’t. And now this family will walk away from all that back into their piles of money.

    So I was just envisioning a scene from a century ago in early New York. A young, emigrant couple walks down the gangplank to start their new life in America. Suddenly a tall, well-built man steps out of the shadows and says ‘Isaac Sackler?’ After seeing the man nod, he pulls out a shotgun from under his jacket.
    Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!

    ‘You’re terminated.’

  14. griffen

    I think we’d all wish the headlines were bold and large font , and unfortunately you’ll have to wait for a feature on “60 minutes” or similar to see how the sausage was made here.

    This is incredible and revolting, to reap destruction on those less fortunate with a reformulated small pill. As I understand, in it’s original form the original pill was not as potent or nearly so addictive. It’s all very sad and infuriating.

  15. Vthestate

    so much about this stinks. com’n up on 20 years clean. The Sackler’s do not deserve to walk away wealthy…. very hard to prosecute the doctors…regulators and the judge need new jobs when they get out. One of the big problems is money….the DA and the states should burn the money in the town square …as long as a big pay day is at the end of the rainbow….some corporate creep or lawyer will find a way. Holding the body until the cash shows up will correct the off shoring BS…just like making bond…except pay all and not just some of your ill gotten gains.

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