A bill aimed at preventing those who have not filed for bankruptcy from receiving bankruptcy-like protections may not pass in time to change the fate of the billionaire family it is named after, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) acknowledged Tuesday.
The SACKLER Act, filed after Sackler family members sought legal immunity from government-filed lawsuits through their company Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy, has not received Republican support, and GOP members pushed back against it at the hearing about the legislation Tuesday.
Under the company’s bankruptcy plan, the OxyContin maker would be transformed into a publicly owned entity that the Sacklers would not have involvement in. Members of the Sackler family would pay nearly $4.3 billion over a decade, and in exchange, the family, their companies and other firms related to them would be legally released from facing opioid-related lawsuits.
“We must pass the SACKLER Act before the bankruptcy plan is confirmed and the Sackler family will practically get off scot-free,” Maloney, a bill sponsor, told reporters during a press call.
When asked if she believed the act would be passed soon enough to meaningfully affect the outcome of the Purdue bankruptcy case, Maloney stressed her efforts to push the bill forward but acknowledged the forthcoming Aug. 9 final confirmation hearing for the company’s restructuring plan in a bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y.
“I’m going to give it everything I have,” she said. “I can’t say that it’s obviously going to pass because I really don’t know. I’m trying.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Democrats and Republicans clashed, as some GOP members argued Democrats should not interfere with ongoing court cases against drug companies filed by cities, counties, states and other jurisdictions for the damage inflicted by the opioid epidemic.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden (R) testified in favor of the legislation, as did Patrick Radden Keefe, writer for the New Yorker and author of “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty,” and Alexis Pleus, an addiction recovery advocate who lost her son Jeff to a heroin overdose in 2014.
The Sackler family denies their personal responsibility for the opioid crisis.
During a congressional hearing in December, former Purdue board member Kathe Sackler expressed regret over Purdue’s involvement in testimony given after the committee threatened the Sacklers with subpoenas.
“There is nothing that I can find that I would have done differently based on what I believed and understood then,” she said.
In a joint statement from the heirs of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, two of the three brothers who bought Purdue Frederick, the predecessor to Purdue Pharma, in 1952, the family said, “The proposed settlement will provide billions of dollars for comprehensive opioid abatement programs to communities in need and allocate resources equitably across the country, and it has the support of state and local governments representing more than half the U.S. population along with thousands of private plaintiffs."