The Sackler family are a really odious bunch, making enormous amounts of money by having their company Purdue Pharmaceuticals aggressively push the opioid OxyContin that their company made and providing all manner of inducements to doctors to overprescribe them, resulting in the massive opioid drug addiction problem that exists right now in the US. They then posed as philanthropists, giving money to various institutions and having their names plastered all over various buildings in universities and museums and galleries. I have written about the actions of this disgusting family many, many times.
The law finally caught up with them and they were sued and the company subjected to massive fines. But even then, they exploited the bankruptcy laws to shift the burden to the company after siphoning off money to them personally while not having to admit guilt, and getting total immunity from future lawsuits that will leave their personal fortunes intact. They did this by making sure that their bankruptcy case was heard by a bankruptcy judge who is notorious for letting wealthy people off easily.
While I was disgusted that the law enables rich people to manipulate the system and have their cases heard by a judge who is to their liking, I felt that there was nothing that could be done after the bankruptcy judge in September 2021 let them off the hook.
But I was wrong.
It appears that the Biden administration has challenged that bankruptcy deal, saying that it was an abuse of the bankruptcy process and yesterday the US Supreme Court has decided to take up the case and, in the meantime, has put the bankruptcy judge’s ruling on hold.
The US supreme court has agreed to hear a challenge by Joe Biden’s administration to the legality of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement that would shield its owners from the Sackler family from lawsuits over their role in the country’s opioid epidemic.
The court also paused bankruptcy proceedings concerning Purdue and its affiliates and said in a brief order that it would hold oral arguments in December in the administration’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling upholding the settlement. The court’s new term begins in October.
Purdue’s owners under the settlement would receive immunity in exchange for paying up to $6bn to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by states, hospitals, people who had become addicted and others who have sued the Stamford, Connecticut-based company over its misleading marketing of OxyContin.
At issue is whether US bankruptcy law allows Purdue’s restructuring to include legal protections for the Sackler family, who have not filed for personal bankruptcy.
In a court filing, the administration told the supreme court that Purdue’s settlement is an abuse of bankruptcy protections meant for debtors in “financial distress,” not people like the Sacklers. According to the administration, Sackler family members withdrew $11bn from Purdue before agreeing to contribute $6bn to its opioid settlement.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the US Supreme Court will void the settlement after it hears the arguments. But I like the fact that its decision to hear the case will undoubtedly cause the Sacklers some stress.
As a refresher on the awfulness of the Sackler family and on why the original settlement was so bad, you can watch this episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight back in 2021 that clearly explains how this travesty of justice came about. It is one of the best episodes of this excellent show.