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New York’s attorney general has uncovered over $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family and accused the OxyContin magnates of trying to shield their wealth from mounting lawsuits over their role in the opioid crisis.
The prodigious stash was discovered in the records of just one of the 33 financial institutions Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed last month in an effort to trace the extent of the Purdue Pharma owners’ wealth, James’ office said in a statement on Friday. The money passed through several Swiss bank accounts, indicating the family may have tried to hide profits from the sale of drugs that have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans over the past two decades as their legal troubles began to pile up.
“While the Sacklers continue to lowball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct,” James said in a statement on Friday, referring to the tentative $3 billion settlement 23 states reached with the Sacklers on Wednesday. The money would be paid out over seven years and would not come with an admission of wrongdoing.
The proposed settlement, which rolls together nearly 2,300 lawsuits against the company, would require Purdue Pharma to file for bankruptcy, a move that would halt all litigation against the company. New York and many other states are hoping to reclaim the profits the Sacklers may have siphoned off into their personal fortunes, and legal experts who spoke to the New York Times suggested the extent of the transfers could leave the family open to criminal charges.
State attorney generals who oppose the deal want the Sacklers to pay the massive bills governments have spent in treatment and incarceration as well as compensation for the deaths caused by Purdue’s blockbuster opioid OxyContin, introduced in 1996 and pushed heavily with the help of a marketing campaign that included coopting medical authorities into emphasizing “pain relief” while downplaying or even denying the drug’s addiction potential. Those who support the settlement, however, prefer the comparatively diminutive payout to the uncertainty of long, drawn-out legal processes.
New York isn’t the only state going after individual family members in addition to the company. Sackler family members have been removing billions of dollars from Purdue since 2007, when the company was forced to cough up a $635-million fine as part of a guilty plea over “misbranding” OxyContin and misleading medical professionals over its addictive potential, suggesting they saw the writing on the wall long ago.