Sacklers Threaten to Pull Out of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity

Wow! Now here’s an interesting tussle. We’ve been commenting on the progress of the Sackler family saga and the various penalties and fines being levied on those who profited from the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans over the past years of the opioid crisis. Included is the $4.5 billion Sackler family pledge to settle the estimated 2,700 lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of claims that have been registered against the family and Purdue, going back to 2014.

Central to that deal offered by the Sackler family is personal immunity from prosecution for all members of the family and approximately 1,000 other Purdue Pharma related people who participated in the broad-scale deception. A series of hearings have been conducted be a Federal Judge who has been expected to approve the plan including the Sackler demand.

But now out of the blue, objections to the legal shield for the Sackler’s and their cohorts, has forced the judge to take a pause. In response the family threatens to withdraw their settlement offer and litigate all claims one by one, taking many years and much money to do so. However, its looking like a growing number of people harmed by the loss of loved ones, caused by the Sackler’s criminal activities, may have decided that getting that money today is not worth seeing the family walk from legal jeopardy they so richly deserve!

We’ll see…Either way the Sackler family members are facing a very long road of retribution.

In a rare court appearance, David Sackler said he and his family would withdraw their pledge to pay $4.5 billion, unless they are shielded from lawsuits related to Purdue Pharma.

Sacklers Threaten to Pull Out of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity

In a rare court appearance, David Sackler said he and his family would withdraw their pledge to pay $4.5 billion, unless they are shielded from lawsuits related to Purdue Pharma.

David Sackler, a former board member of Purdue Pharma, during a video hearing with the House Oversight Committee in December.
Credit…House Television, via Associated Press

A scion of the Sackler family, the billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma, vowed in court on Tuesday that the family would walk away from a $4.5 billion pledge to help communities nationwide that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic, unless a judge grants it immunity from all current and future civil claims associated with the company.

Absent that broad release from liability, said David Sackler, 41, a former board member and grandson of one of the founders, the family would no longer support the deal that the parties have painstakingly negotiated over two years to settle thousands of opioids lawsuits brought by states, cities, tribes and other plaintiffs.

“We need a release that is sufficient to get our goals accomplished, and if the release fails to do that, then we will not support it,” Mr. Sackler declared during the fourth day of fractious testimony in the confirmation hearing for the bankruptcy plan of Purdue Pharma, whose misleading marketing of the prescription painkiller OxyContin is widely seen as igniting the opioid epidemic.

Instead, he said he believed the Sacklers would resume fighting all the cases “to their final outcomes” — a process that would be inordinately costly and protracted for everyone involved.

The Sacklers’ $4.5 billion pledge is the centerpiece of the settlement plan and, without it, the deal will almost certainly collapse. The money is to be paid over nine or ten years, to begin to cover the extraordinary costs of an addiction crisis that has contributed to the deaths of more than a half-million Americans since the late 1990s. Under the plan’s other major terms, Purdue would be remade into a new public benefit company, whose profits would almost all go to the settlement, and the Sacklers would renounce all involvement.

They will, however, be allowed to remain involved in their considerable international pharmaceutical companies, through which they can continue to produce and market opioids for up to seven years, until the companies are sold, to seed the litigation payments.

Another signature feature would be a public repository for more than 30 million documents from Purdue and the Sacklers “so that academics and scholars and families of victims and everyone can look at those documents and understand what can happen when there is a fraud and how intense and how long that fraud can go on,” said Jayne Conroy, a lawyer who began pursuing Purdue in 2002, and who testified on Monday in favor of the plan.

A federal bankruptcy judge had been expected to confirm the plan at the end of these hearings, particularly after a majority of states that had earlier opposed the deal expressed support for it last month. But objections to the legal shield for the Sacklers have become the sharp focus of much of the testimony. The details of the Sacklers’ liability releases are so far-reaching that last week Judge Robert Drain himself said he had “some concerns about the breadth.”

Mr. Sackler testified by video before Judge Drain, who sits in White Plains, N.Y. It is believed to be the first time that a member of the family has appeared in open court on a matter related to OxyContin, though some Sacklers have given depositions in cases over the years.

He said the family anticipated that the liability shield would cover him, other members of his extensive family, and about 1,000 other individuals, including contractors and consultants, and protect them from lawsuits that had nothing to do with opioids.

That means they would be forever immunized from any current and future lawsuits worldwide related not only directly to Purdue’s opioids but to other drugs the company makes, including drugs for addiction reversal, high cholesterol and even constipation as a result of taking prescription opioids.

Purdue and the actions of Sackler family members, who as hands-on board members took a keen interest in drastically downplaying the addictive qualities of OxyContin in marketing efforts, have been widely implicated in the opioid epidemic.

The company has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges twice, most recently in 2021, during which the Sacklers themselves paid related civil penalties.

In his court appearance, Mr. Sackler refused to be pinned down by lawyers who sought to elicit an acknowledgment of family responsibility in the continuing tragedy, which saw a record-breaking number of overdose deaths last year during the pandemic. He continued to stoutly defend the company’s opioid medications as federally approved drugs to alleviate pain.

The balance between “risk and societal benefit is, I think, beyond question,” Mr. Sackler said. “So I bristle at the notion that people are dying as the only barometer of these medications.”

But at another moment during cross-examination, Mr. Sackler said, “I think because of the product we produced that has helped millions of people has also been associated with the opioid epidemic, we bear moral responsibility to try and help, and that’s what this settlement is designed to do.”

At least 2,700 lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of claims have been registered against Purdue, beginning in 2014, when the opioid epidemic began to crest. The plaintiffs span a vast array including 48 states, local governments, tribes, hospitals, individuals and monitors of infants born with symptoms of withdrawal to opioids, all of whom have been ravaged and financially depleted by opioids.

In more recent years, individual Sacklers themselves have been named in a growing number of the cases.

Nearly two years ago, Purdue filed for bankruptcy restructuring, which put an automatic stay on those lawsuits. But the Sacklers themselves did not file for bankruptcy, although they insisted that they, too, benefit from the liability releases expected to be given to their company.

The issue of releases for the Sacklers and other third parties is at the heart of the resistance to the bankruptcy plan now pursued by nine states, including Maryland, Washington and Connecticut. The District of Columbia, the federal Justice Department and U.S. Trustee, a program in the Justice Department that monitors bankruptcy cases, as well as some Canadian local governments and First Nations, have joined in the objections.

According to current law in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in which Judge Drain’s court is located, the judge can grant releases to the Sacklers and other third-party individuals who have not filed for bankruptcy. But, broadly speaking, the issue is unsettled.

Other federal circuits prohibit it. The question has been taken up by members of Congress, and may well drive an appeal by the objectors, should Judge Drain confirm the plan. The hammering questions by objecting lawyers have so far been intended not only to raise questions about the plan, but to lay a foundation for such appeals.

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.


An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Purdue’s marketing efforts for OxyContin. The campaign drastically downplayed the drug’s addictive qualities. It did not say the drug was nonaddictive.

Jan Hoffman writes about behavioral health and health law. Her wide-ranging subjects include opioids, vaping, tribes and adolescents. @JanHoffmanNYT

Sacklers Threaten to Pull Out of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity

Sacklers Threaten to Pull Out of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Jury Awards $125 Million After Walmart Fires Woman With Down Syndrome

Jury Awards $125 Million After Walmart Fires Woman With Down Syndrome

Is it true that “What Goes Around Comes Around”? We may be getting close to another prime example of how that particular law of nature and physics plays out in the life of all humans, even those who have seemed impervious to its reach.

Now that the lengthy inquiry into accusations of sexual harassment and other improprieties related to the Governor’s handling of Covid, nursing-home data and state resources he may have illegally used to publish his book so quickly has advanced significantly, we’ll soon know the results of what at least appears to be a thorough and exhaustive investigation. There is always the risk of jumping the gun and assuming the worst, which we want to avoid in fairness to all parties, including the Governor.

From the current perch we all share of only having publicly available sources of info, it appears that Mr. Cuomo’s bluster and denials and the support he still has from political allies may see him through what appears to be the most significant threat he’s faced to his political career and legacy. If not, we’ll soon see another Governor’s career go down in ignoble flames due to their disbelief that those words applied to them, in spite of their use of them on many occasions to describe the plight of other people.

Drake Bell Given Two Years of Probation

Drake must have felt a sense of empowerment, the big star over the impressionable fan. It’s been called intoxicating and at the right time and place, with the right profile of a fan it might indeed have been just a “good time!”

But when that person turned out to be a minor it was a whole other ballgame and now Drake is someone who has been charged with the felony of attempted child endangerment. It lead to a plea deal including financial penalties, probation with various conditions for a minimum of two years and registration as a sex offender!

Have to ask though as we always should, is it possible its not so black and white? Were there mitigating circumstances? Had Drake himself been a victim of child abuse? Was this a one-off mistake or just one of a series? Does it indicate a much deeper problem and need for help, but with the proviso to also keep him away from other potential victims?

A deeper analysis might answer those questions and let us have a dose of sympathy. But in the end, sympathy or not, he made the choices! He lured her in! He pounced!

There’s at least one thing we can be pretty sure he didn’t have, which is the insight that whether there seems to be someone watching or not, that there IS something taking note.That something is the universal Law of Cause & Effect which explains every action/reaction in the physical universe and nature, but also applies to all human thoughts, words and actions and their consequences.

In our time and culture, the common vernacular for this principle in action is the expression “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Most of us use those words, perhaps many times, but only when describing someone else’s misfortune. We didn’t understand at first, but when the facts came out we could see why it happened!

However another truth is that, what is so easy to see in others can be so hard to see in ourselves. Unfortunately for Drake, he didn’t either! If he’d only read the book I wrote with that title he might not be in this fix!

The former star of the Nickelodeon series “Drake & Josh” had pleaded guilty to two charges related to a girl he met online. She attended one of his concerts in 2017.