Sacklers cited fear of OxyContin lawsuits before transferring $10 billion from their company, documents show

By Mike Spector, Chad Terhune, and Lisa Girion
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Members of the wealthy Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP, have long denied that the $ 10 billion they transferred from their company over the course of a decade was an illegal attempt were to shield assets in anticipation of litigation over their role in the opioid crisis.
However, a review of emails, memos, deposits, legal filings, and other documents unsealed late Friday in Purdue's bankruptcy proceedings reveals that Sackler's family members were at least back in 2007, an entire decade before a new, sweeping law Attack discussed over potential litigation and significant financial transfers stopped. The documents were unsealed in response to legal action by Reuters and other news organizations seeking to remove their heavy editorial offices.
Purdue faced an investigation and litigation prior to 2007, which it resolved. Whether or not creditors can show that cash transfers have since been legally in doubt depends in part on whether they can show that the Sacklers knew they were facing additional and significant legal battles that could jeopardize Purdue's solvency and family fortunes dated by Forbes magazine in December were valued at $ 10.8 billion.
In response to questions from a House Board of Representatives last week, David Sackler, who served on Purdue's board of directors from 2012 to 2018, testified that neither he nor anyone else had anticipated massive litigation, which now includes around 3,000 legal actions. "I don't think anyone knew that lawsuits that started really seriously in 2017 would come back in 2008," he told lawmakers.
In an email to relatives in March 2007, his uncle Jonathan, a director at the time, quoted wrongly naming OxyContin two months before a Purdue partner pleaded guilty, adding, “If there is any future perception, that Purdue screwed it up. If we comply, we could be murdered. "
In a subsequent message, he said the family was "not really prepared for challenges," which included "the emergence of numerous new lawsuits." Jonathan died in June.
In May 2007, a week after the subsidiary's guilty plea, David Sackler raised concerns with his father and uncle about future litigation. The latter assured him that there was no basis for a lawsuit against the family.
"Well, I hope you are right and under logical circumstances I would agree with you, but we live in America. This is the land of the free and the home of the innocent, ”Sackler wrote in an email. “We are being sued. Read the comments in these local newspapers and wonder how long it will take these lawyers to figure out if we can come to terms with them when they can freeze our assets and threaten us. "
The message was sent years before David Sackler joined Purdue's board of directors at a time when he knew little about the company's affairs, his lawyers said in a lawsuit.
In court records, family members allege that Purdue management did not tell them until 2016 that they considered the risk of opioid litigation to be low and that creditors quoting their emails took messages out of context. Most of the more than $ 10 billion they took out of Purdue went into business investments and paying taxes, with Sackler-controlled companies receiving around $ 4 billion, documents show.
"We have supported the court's release of documents and reiterate that members of the Sackler family serving on Purdue's board of directors have acted ethically and lawfully in all respects," said a statement.
"These cherry-picked snippets of email ignore the full context of their testimony and the rest of the legal filings, all of which show that the fraudulent promotion claims are completely unfounded," added Daniel S. Connolly, attorney for the Raymond Sackler wing of the family, referring to the creditors' challenges with the remittances.
The opioid epidemic has killed around 450,000 people in the US since 1999 due to overdoses of prescription pain relievers and illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Purdue creditors have persecuted the company and family as the company filed for bankruptcy, forcing the drug maker and Sacklers to hand over tens of millions of documents.
State officials said the documents undercut the family members' claims. "The Sacklers told Congress they didn't do anything wrong," said Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, who has sued the Sacklers and Purdue along with almost every other state. "The evidence tells a different story - they got rich, fueling the opioid crisis, and are planning to evict billionaires."
Sackler's family members also pursued additional product liability insurance and investigated Purdue's direct sales to resolve its issues, both to no avail, the documents showed.
In an email dated February 2008, Mortimer D.A. Sackler asked Richard Sackler, once Purdue's president, to sell their company. "Basically, we don't want to stay in this business anymore (given the terrible risks, prospects, difficulties, etc) and I think the majority of your family feel the same way," said Mortimer. About a week later, he urged a sale again: “It is just not wise to stay in business, given the future risks we are sure to face and the impact they will have on the business's shareholder value, and hence the Companies will have family assets. "
"Really sad"
Purdue said it presented tens of millions of documents to creditors, including those privileged related to the Sacklers, as part of an effort to resolve widespread legal disputes in a deal valued at more than $ 10 billion, for the most part Reverse drugs in development are based on providing addiction treatment and overdose.
The company has proposed to reorganize into a business run on behalf of the plaintiffs and no longer controlled by the Sacklers, who would contribute $ 3 billion. The company would also continue to sell OxyContin, which has raised objections from attorneys general and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
In a November settlement with the US Department of Justice, Purdue pleaded guilty to prosecution for misconduct related to its opioids and agreed to fines of more than $ 8 billion, the majority of which will remain unpaid.
Sackler's family members agreed to pay $ 225 million to settle the civil claims they contested. Neither she nor anyone else was prosecuted.
At the Congressional hearing, David Sackler said his family's press reports were false. "We also fully acknowledge that there is an opioid crisis that has ruined too many lives and that OxyContin addiction and abuse played a role in it. We truly apologize for anyone who has lost a family member or is under the scourge of Addiction has suffered. "

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