WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVQ) — Congressman Hal Rogers joined 45 other House members Tuesday in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr demanding the Department of Justice reverse its decision to turn Purdue Pharma into a so-called “public benefit company” at the Sackler family’s request.
If finalized, the proposal would hand over ownership of Purdue to a public trust that would manufacture OxyContin on behalf of the state and local governments suing Purdue for the damage caused by their illegal marketing of this highly addictive, powerful opioid.
According to the letter signed by Rogers and the others, Purdue and the Sackler family “perpetrated one of the most egregious criminal acts in American history, intentionally addicting millions of unsuspecting people to powerful painkillers for profit and directly contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.”
In the letter, the lawmakers wrote: “The idea to convert Purdue Pharma into some form of public trust originated with the Sackler family as a way to artificially inflate the size of their punishment by counting the public trust’s future sales of OxyContin as part of the value the Sacklers must forfeit. There is no better example of the success of this public relations strategy than the Department of Justice’s own settlement announcement. While headlines announced Purdue’s $8 billion settlement, nearly a quarter, or $1.775 billion, of this figure is actually a ‘credit’ DOJ is providing Purdue ‘[b]ased on the value that would be conferred to State and local governments’ through the public benefit company. In other words, this proposal is a mirage designed to help the Sacklers keep billions in ill-gotten gains by deceiving the American people into believing they have already been severely punished.”
“The proper role of government in the production of prescription opioids is to enforce regulatory compliance, prevent diversion, and hold perpetrators liable for violations. An ownership interest in the production of OxyContin would mean that states may be forced to balance these enforcement interests with their interest in the products or revenue produced by the public trust,” the letter continued.
“Moreover, entangling government with this company may also create conflicts and doubts regarding the government’s ability to regulate other companies in the industry that are its suppliers, customers, and competitors. This apparent conflict will undermine the public’s faith in state enforcement activity. Never in American history have federal courts used the bankruptcy process to achieve this outcome.”
Specifically, the lawmakers called on Barr to reject the Sackler family’s proposal and allow the court to conclude the bankruptcy process by selling Purdue Pharma to a new private owner, which would hasten financial assistance to the victims of the Sackers’ crimes, prevent states from maintaining an indefinite association with OxyContin, ensure impartiality in government enforcement actions, and help maintain the public’s trust that the rules were not bent to protect billionaires, the lawmakers said.