The Star Democrat

Moral bankruptcy doesn’t count in Sackler family protection deal

- Reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch DISTRIBUTE­D BY CREATORS.COM

A federal judge late Thursday correctly annulled a disgusting deal approved in federal bankruptcy court that allowed the pharmaceut­ical world’s infamous Sackler family to escape future liability for the national opioid-addiction crisis the family helped create. U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon saw through the blatant abuse of the bankruptcy court system to protect family members who were morally bankrupt but nowhere close to financial bankruptcy and had no business tying their personal liability protection to the broader settlement affecting their company, Purdue Pharma.

Although McMahon’s ruling could mean more years of delays and court fights, it’s worth the time and expense to ensure the Sacklers don’t escape full liability for knowingly flooding the market with a highly addictive product, OxyContin, while falsely claiming it was non-addictive.

The damage they inflicted in communitie­s across the country requires that the Sackler family be held fully accountabl­e — financiall­y and legally. They got rich by ruining millions of lives, ripping apart families and causing financial turmoil for cities and towns, forcing their law enforcemen­t and social agencies to cope with addiction-related homelessne­ss and crime. Mexican cartels capitalize­d on OxyContin addictions by marketing heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternativ­e. Drug gangs flooded the streets with guns, contributi­ng heavily to today’s high urban homicide rates.

The Sacklers donated billions of dollars to fund major arts facilities and wings of museums around the country, as if to whitewash their culpabilit­y. On Dec. 9, New York’s Metropolit­an Museum of Art announced that the Sackler name would be removed from seven exhibition spaces.

A federal bankruptcy judge in September reluctantl­y signed off on the deal that granted the Sacklers protection. The Sacklers agreed to dissolve Purdue Pharma and pay out $4.5 billion to states that had filed claims. But the family had already moved an estimated $10 billion to offshore accounts in the years before the settlement, putting the money out of reach.

Even at the time of the bankruptcy settlement, the judge who approved the deal expressed extreme discomfort with the arrangemen­t, saying, “This is a bitter result. B-I-T-T-E-R.”

In striking down the agreement, McMahon echoed concerns raised by this newspaper and others that the federal bankruptcy system was never designed to assign liability protection­s to people who weren’t directly tied to a bankruptcy claim, aren’t financiall­y bankrupt and, in fact, are filthy rich.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson perhaps said it best: “There cannot be two forms of justice — one for ordinary Americans and a different one for billionair­es.” He acknowledg­ed that some potentiall­y rough and litigious days are ahead, but the need to hold the Sackler family accountabl­e remains paramount. “I’m prepared to take this fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to ensure true accountabi­lity for the Sackler family.”

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