New legal filing argues that a bankruptcy court doesn't have the authority to prevent attorneys general from suing Sackler family
Today, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and eight other attorneys general filed objections to the plan of confirmation asking the judge to reject Purdue Pharma's proposed bankruptcy plan, which includes a lifetime legal shield for the company's owners, the Sackler family. The states argue that a bankruptcy court doesn't have the authority to prevent attorneys general from enforcing state law, including the decision to pursue the Sacklers for their illegal conduct.
"Far too many lives have been lost or devastated in Rhode Island as a result of the opioid crisis," said Attorney General Neronha. "While we recognize that nothing will bring those lives back or undo the pain and suffering so many families are going through, we remain committed holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the role they played in Rhode Island's opioid epidemic."
Purdue proposed in its bankruptcy plan for the Sackler family to pay $4.3 billion to the group of states, municipalities and private plaintiffs that sued the company in 2017. The states' objection, filed today in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York as part of Purdue's bankruptcy proceedings, asserts $4.3 billion is miniscule in context: The Sackler family made over $11 billion in profits from producing and deceptively marketing OxyContin, a major driver in the rise of the opioid crisis. The crisis has cost the nation millions of lives and at least $2 trillion in damage.
As noted in a recently published New York Times op-ed, the Sacklers will earn more than $4.3 billion on their remaining wealth after paying the settlement, which Purdue would pay in 11 annual payments. By the time they are finished paying this settlement, the Sacklers will be wealthier than they were when they started.
Purdue's bankruptcy plan would also release the Sacklers for life from all liability, meaning that the states would be permanently barred from bringing consumer protection lawsuits against the Sacklers. The objection maintains that a bankruptcy court judge does not have the authority to take away a state attorney general's power to enforce consumer protection laws.
The states' objection argues the Sacklers should not be handed a federal injunction shielding the lion's share of their multi-billion-dollar fortune in exchange for payments that cover less than one percent of the damage they caused.
In addition to Rhode Island, Washington, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, Delaware, and the District of Columbia also filed or joined formal objections today.
The hearing on the bankruptcy plan is set to begin on August 9. The judge will decide whether or not to approve the plan shortly after.