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As Purdue Pharma Settles Oklahoma Lawsuit, Those Receiving Sackler Money Need to Make a Decision

March 27, 2019

On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, the drug company Purdue Pharma has agreed to settle with the State of Oklahoma, which sued Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and Teva Pharmaceutical for the state’s opioid crisis. The $270M settlement appears to have been in the works for months, with the help of a court-appointed mediator.

All three companies were scheduled to go to trial on May 28, 2019; only Purdue Pharma decided to settle thus far.

Purdue Pharma is owned by the billionaire Sackler family, of which ed reformer Jonathan Sackler is a member. The Oklahoma lawsuit (see here also) did not name the Sacklers as defendants.

Tracking the Sackler fortune has been difficult; in this March 08, 2019, post about Purdue Pharma, the Massachusetts lawsuit, Jonathan Sackler, and his spending his opioid profit-derived fortune on ed reform organizations, I reference a Wall Street Journal article that notes Purdue Pharma profits have largely landed in Sackler family pockets.

One way for Purdue Pharma to escape liability via hundreds of lawsuits for its role in America’s opioid crisis is to file for bankruptcy. However, according to May 26, 2019, Politico, Oklhoma’s $270M settlement with Purdue Pharma is “bankruptcy proof”:

[The Oklahoma settlement] is the first major settlement to result from all those lawsuits and comes as Purdue officials mulled bankruptcy protection. Filing for Chapter 11 could stop litigation and make it hard to collect on any judgment, which [Oklahoma Attorney General Mike] Hunter admitted played into his decision to reach this accord.

“We had to take into account that they were modeling bankruptcy,” he said. “That was a serious exercise with them.”

He said his office has made “extensive efforts” to ensure this settlement is “bankruptcy proof.”

“We’ve got a commitment they are not filing bankruptcy in the near term,” he said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure this is real money, that it’s not at risk in the event Purdue declares bankruptcy.“

In its press release on the settlement, Purdue Pharma paints the issue as a “landmark agreement… to advance the treatment of addiction.”

One day later, on March 27, 2019, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is facing criticism for refusing to return a $12,500 campaign donation from Jonathan Sackler, as GoLocalProv reports:

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo continued to refuse to return or donate $12,500 from Purdue Pharma scion Jonathan Sackler and his wife, as Sackler finds himself facing new lawsuits in which he is personally named. …

While Raimondo had last responded to the question of keeping the Sackler money in October 2018, major developments have occurred regarding the Sacklers — including who is now suing them individually, and who is now refusing to take their money.

When pressed if she continued to be comfortable with her campaign relationship with Sackler, “I have nothing more to add on this,” said Raimondo. …

Sackler family members — including Jonathan Sackler —have been sued as individuals in Massachusetts and New York.

Raimondo might be fine taking money from a Sackler; however, the Sackler family trust will discontinue philanthropic donations because of repeated rejection of its offers for funding. New York’s Guggenheim Museum rejected Sackler funding, as have London’s National Portrait Gallery and Tate Galleries.

Postsecondary institutions are also having to face the issue of accepting money from a family made rich on opioid addiction.

But it can be hard to refuse tainted dollars. Just like the opioids from which they are derived, Sackler dollars can create addiction– fiscal addiction– as is apparently the case with Connecticut-based Achievement First charter schools. The March 18, 2019, Chalkbeat reports:

The co-founder of the Achievement First network of charter schools faced a weighty question in a meeting with a few students earlier this year. Is the network still receiving money from any member of the Sackler family, which has been accused of fueling the national opioid epidemic?

“Yes,” Dacia Toll said. Then she explained why.

The donations — $1.6 million from Jonathan Sackler between 2013 and 2017 — are critical to the 36-school network and its Connecticut schools in particular, Toll said.

“We could say to the Sacklers, we do not want your money. We could. Tomorrow,” she said, according to audio of the conversation obtained by Chalkbeat. “And as a result, some amount of things that we are able to do here … would go away.” …

“Without the philanthropy, we would have to lay off staff and cut core programs,” she said. “Our board is actively reassessing as we get more information.”

Addiction is terrible.

Sometimes, addiction is to a drug.

Other times, it is to the funding generated by that drug.

We need to be careful what owns us.

IMG_1450money fishhook


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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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From → Charters, Litigation

One Comment
  1. Marian Cruz permalink

    A dear friend’s 18 year old Grandchild died as a result of an opioid overdose. The Sackler’s have blood on their hands. Perfect example of GREED!

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