Purdue Pharma settlement talks advance; Connecticut, other states still opposed
STAMFORD — Attorneys representing about 2,000 cities and counties suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma announced Wednesday that settlement talks were advancing, but Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and a number of his counterparts said they were not ready to make a deal.
Lawyers representing local governments whose cases against Purdue and other opioid makers have been consolidated into a “multidistrict litigation” group in federal court in Cleveland recommended that their clients “move forward in support of Purdue’s current settlement proposal.” But the first of the MDL trials could still start on Oct. 21.
Even with 22 state attorneys general reportedly supporting the settlement framework, Tong’s and others’ opposition suggests a comprehensive settlement with most or all of the 46 states with pending lawsuits is far from being clinched.
“This community-driven solution supports those most affected by the prescription opioid crisis — and demonstrates that Main Streets across the country are leading the charge to fight, abate, and recover from the epidemic,” MDL plaintiffs’ attorneys Paul Hanly Jr., Paul Farrell Jr. and Joe Rice said in a statement. “In the days to come, if the proposal meets satisfactory documentation of the final terms, we look forward to sharing more details about the resolution’s structure and how it will provide direct support at the local level.”
The statement did not outline the prospective settlement terms, but the Sackler family members who own Purdue have agreed to consider potential conditions under which they would relinquish control of Purdue, and the company would be transformed into a public trust; make a $3 billion cash payout; and additionally transfer up to $1.5 billion from the sale of their international prescription-drug business Mundipharma, a source close to the company told Hearst Connecticut Media on Tuesday.
Purdue officials indicated Wednesday that no agreement had been finalized to resolve the lawsuits, which allege the company fueled the opioid crisis with deceptive OxyContin marketing. Purdue denies those claims.
“Purdue Pharma continues to work with all plaintiffs on reaching a comprehensive resolution to its opioid litigation that will deliver billions of dollars and vital opioid overdose rescue medicines to communities across the country impacted by the opioid crisis,” the company said in a statement.
Tong, meanwhile, reiterated that he is not yet willing to endorse a settlement.
“I cannot speak to other states or divulge confidential negotiations, but Connecticut has not agreed to any settlement,” he said in a statement. “Our position remains firm and unchanged and nothing for us has changed today. The scope and scale of the pain, death and destruction that Purdue and the Sacklers have caused far exceeds anything that has been offered thus far. Connecticut’s focus is on the victims and their families, and holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the crisis they have caused.”
Tong also rejected earlier reports of a prospective settlement being worth $10 billion to $12 billion.
“Neither Purdue nor the Sacklers have offered to make a guaranteed $10 (billion) to $12 billion payment in cash, and any report to that effect is completely inaccurate,” he said.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also remains opposed to settling.
“The families who were hurt by Purdue and the Sacklers have spoken loud and clear that this case demands real accountability, and I will continue to fight for that,” Healey said in a statement. “It’s critical that all the facts come out about what this company and its executives and directors did, that they apologize for the harm they caused, and that no one profits from breaking the law. These families deserve justice.”
Other state attorneys general, including North Carolina’s Josh Stein, are also opposed to settling now.
Stein said that he was preparing to sue the Sacklers for their purported role in the opioid crisis. A number of other states — including Connecticut and Massachusetts — have sued the Sacklers, as individuals, in addition to Purdue as a company.
“Along with many other states, I wasn’t satisfied with Purdue’s position,” Stein said in a statement. “A large number of states are committed to the notion that the Sacklers need to guarantee more money. We believe they created a mess and must help to clean it up. Different states have different views, as is to be expected. But every attorney general agrees that Purdue, the Sacklers and other drug companies need to pay to treat those struggling with addiction.”
Stein and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III had warned their counterparts in an email last Saturday that settlement talks had deadlocked and that Purdue would file imminently for bankruptcy, without a settlement in place.
Public bankruptcy court records Wednesday showed no new filings from the company, but Tong has repeatedly said he would keep pursuing Connecticut’s claims against Purdue and the Sacklers if they were to take that course of action. He has attributed Purdue’s potential bankruptcy to the Sacklers’ alleged siphoning of billions of dollars from the firm.
“Connecticut’s focus is on the victims and their families, and holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the crisis they have caused,” Tong said. “I cannot predict whether Purdue will seek bankruptcy, but all I can say is we are ready to aggressively pursue this case wherever it goes—whether it is in the Connecticut courts or through bankruptcy.”
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