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Sackler family withdrew over $10B from Purdue Pharma during country's opioid crisis

Posted at 7:49 AM, Dec 17, 2019

Members of the Sackler family withdrew more than $10 billion from Purdue Pharma and put the money in family trusts and holding companies as pressure intensified over the nation's opioid epidemic, according to court documents.

The withdrawals came during a time when Purdue Pharma was accused of fueling the nation's opioid epidemic and amid growing concerns from many states that a significant amount of the family's wealth may be held overseas; therefore unavailable to plaintiffs seeking relief through the courts.

An audit shows that from 2008 through late 2018, the family withdrew more than eight times as much money from Purdue as the previous 13 years. Details of the withdrawals emerged during an audit of the company, which filed for bankruptcy in September. The audit, commissioned by Purdue, was filed in bankruptcy court Monday evening.

It showed that from 1995 through 2007, the Sacklers received $1.3 billion from Purdue; but from 2008 through 2018, those payments amounted to $10.7 billion.

The larger Sackler family withdrawals came after Purdue's 2007 plea deal with the Justice Department to pay a $600 million penalty on a felony charge of misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers over the prescription opioid OxyContin.

Transparency and accountability

Purdue said in a statement that the report shows "extreme transparency."

"Purdue is providing this exceedingly rare level of transparency to help ensure that all claimants, including attorneys general and the communities they represent, can support the settlement structure that would transfer more than $10 billion of value to the American public to address the opioid epidemic and save lives," Purdue Pharma said in a statement.

An attorney for the Raymond Sackler family said that the amount the family has been withdrawing has been public for months.

"These distribution numbers were known at the time the proposed settlement was agreed to by two dozen attorneys general and thousands of local governments," Raymond Sackler family attorney Daniel S. Connolly said in a statement to CNN.

But New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has been trying to determine how much money the Sacklers have amassed and where it is, said in a statement that the audit details only show a need for even more information.

"The fact that the Sackler family removed more than $10 billion when Purdue's OxyContin was directly causing countless addictions, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and tearing apart millions of families is further reason that we must see detailed financial records showing how much the Sacklers profited from the nation's deadly opioid epidemic," James said.

A series of legal efforts against the company

Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have been the subject of a series of legal challenges.

The state of Arizona brought an unusual case to the Supreme Court that sought to stop the Sackler family from transferring money from the company, claiming it was an effort to deplete it and avoid paying claims concerning OxyContin.

The court said last week that it would not hear the case.

Purdue's September bankruptcy filing came as part of a settlement to pay $10 billion to more than 2,000 states, municipalities, counties and Native American governments, though the company has denied any wrongdoing.

"This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis," said a statement from Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue's board of directors.

The Sackler family said at the time that it hoped the reorganization from the bankruptcy would end its ownership of the company.