• November 28, 2020

Did the Sackler Family Just Beat America?

 Did the Sackler Family Just Beat America?

Photo by Lizzy Oakley Photography

The Trump administration is spiking the football after securing an $8.3 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma – in what officials claim is the largest settlement with a pharmaceutical company in American history. But the deal isn’t even a slap on the wrists of the members of the Sackler family who are allegedly walking away with their own multi-billion dollar payday after driving pill-sized stakes through the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Americans. 

“Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, in an effort to increase profit and grow their wealth, pushed obscene amounts of opioids on unsuspecting Americans, intentionally causing millions to become addicted, and resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) released in a statement. 

Ryan’s blue-collar state has been brutalized by the opioid epidemic, and they’re not alone. Annually, the crisis – which the Sackler family has now agreed to plead guilty to – has cost America as many lives as were lost in the entire Vietnam War. 

Quarterly rate of suspected opioid overdose, by US region.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

That’s why many survivors, people who lost loved ones and many politicians are furious that – at least for now – the Sackler family gets to live freely and lavishly. 

“I am outraged that this settlement does not result in a single day of jail time for the Sackler family or company leaders. The Sacklers knowingly created and expanded the opioid epidemic for personal profit, then siphoned off billions of dollars into offshore bank accounts to ensure that they would still walk away as billionaires when their criminal enterprise finally came crumbling down,” Ryan said. “They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” 

The Trump Justice Department tried to temper the outrage by pointing to the historic price tag of the settlement, which still needs court approval. 

The “announcement involves one of the most important participants in the supply chain of prescription opioids, at the manufacturer level,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said. “And a resolution which, if approved by the court, will redress past wrongs, and will also provide extraordinary new resources for treatment and care of those affected by opioids addiction.

Senior Justice officials say that even though their hands were partially tied because the company had previously declared bankruptcy. they were able to disband the company as America came to know it. They say that’s a win for the nation. 

“A key piece of today’s resolution is based on the future of Purdue Pharma. The agreed resolution, if approved, will require that the company must dissolve and no longer exist in its present form,” Rosen said. “…the Sacklers must relinquish all ownership and control of the company (and its successors), and the assets must be transferred to a new public benefit company or PBC owned by a trust for the benefit the American public.” 

Rosen pointed out that future civil and criminal penalties can still be brought against the Sackler family, executives or employees in the future. 

“Purdue Pharma is a bankrupt company that will operate in the future as a social benefit corporation, or possibly not at all. Criminal charges for its wrongdoing are decades late and almost beside the point,” Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement. 

Like Congressman Ryan, Weissman also wants individual members of the Sackler family prosecuted for the carnage they left in their wake. 

“The DOJ should have prosecuted Purdue and its owners and executives back in 2007, the first time it brought charges against the company, instead of immunizing it with a non-prosecution agreement,” Weissman said on Wednesday. “Public Citizen research shows these leniency agreements do not deter corporate recidivism. Today’s guilty plea comes too late for the millions of lives that Purdue’s crimes destroyed over the past decade.” 

As for Purdue Pharma – or whatever’s left of it – its new captain attempted to console the bereaved and addicted its left in its wake. 

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice,” current Purdue Chairman Steve Miller released in a statement. “Purdue today is a very different company. We have made significant changes to our leadership, operations, governance, and oversight.” 

Countless thousands of perpetually grieving American families are hoping – at a minimum – that that’s the case. 

Matt Laslo

Matt Laslo

Based in Washington, Matt Laslo is a veteran political and music reporter. Since 2006, he’s been a contributor with VICE News, VICE News Tonight HBO, The Daily Beast, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Billboard, The Atlantic, NPR, etc. He’s taught journalism at Boston University (MA) and The University of Maryland (BA). And he teaches political communications at The Johns Hopkins University MA in Government and Public Policy program. He can be found on most all social media platforms as @MattLaslo.

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