Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Luther Strange pushes for hasty settlement in opioid case, despite signs that his client, the Sackler family, is engaging in bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion

(From NPR)

Former U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) is a long-standing political hack, so it should be no surprise to learn that he is at the center of opiod-lawsuit settlement discussions that involve a "partisan divide," according to a report yesterday at npr.org.

That is not the only breaking news on the opioid front. Just hours before opening arguments were to begin yesterday at a federal courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio, four pharmaceutical companies reached a settlement with two Ohio counties that have been ravaged by the opioid crisis. From a report at CNN:

Hours before the first federal trial in the opioid epidemic was set to begin, four pharmaceutical companies reached a settlement totaling $260 million.

The four companies -- McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. -- reached a settlement Monday morning with the two plaintiffs, Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio. McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. will pay out a combined $215 million immediately, and Teva Pharmaceutical will pay $20 million, officials said at a press conference Monday. . . .

The defendants were supposed to appear in a Cleveland court Monday in the first federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) trial involving the opioid epidemic. Thousands more plaintiffs' cases are awaiting trial.

As for Luther Strange, former attorney general of Alabama, he is a key figure in discussions over a proposed settlement offered last month by Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. From a report at NPR:
The nation's response to the deadly opioid epidemic has been broadly bipartisan, but deep divides have emerged over a settlement plan offered last month by Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin.

Democratic state attorneys general have generally panned the deal, which would force Purdue's owners, members of the Sackler family, to give up control of their company while paying roughly $3 billion in cash from their personal fortunes.

So far, only two Democratic attorneys general nationwide have backed the plan, with more than 20 rejecting it.

Republican attorneys general, meanwhile, have mostly embraced the structured bankruptcy plan. They say the deal isn't perfect but it would get money to communities fast.

Who is pushing heavily for the plan that critics say would let Purdue Pharma off easy? Why, that would be Luther Strange, sticking to his reputation as a pure political animal. Reports NPR:

NPR found that much of the political pressure faced by Republican AGs who pursued opioid litigation has come from one highly influential conservative: Luther Strange.

He's a former US Senator from Alabama who served as that state's Republican attorney general. He also led the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) until 2017.

Strange didn't respond to NPR's repeated requests for an interview but, over the last year, he emerged as a prominent critic of opioid lawsuits.

He objects to state attorneys general hiring outside law firms to help sue Big Pharma. He also argues that AGs who use so-called "public nuisance" claims to hold companies accountable set a dangerous legal precedent, expanding liability for companies accused of harming the public.

"I've written on this recently because it is a blooming problem and issue around the country," Strange said at a gathering of the conservative Federalist Society in June.

He predicted the public nuisance legal arguments now being used against opioid defendants like Purdue Pharma "will be used against almost any other broad social issue."

Why is Strange pressuring fellow Republicans, especially those who show signs of having a spine and standing up for the public against Big Pharma? Well, that's likely because Strange essentially is a legal whore for the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma -- plus, Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, his one-time campaign manager and mistress, helped rake in more than $680,000 from Purdue (2014 to 2018) while they were associated with RAGA:

NPR has learned that while Luther Strange was championing conservative arguments against opioid lawsuits, he was also working behind the scenes as a paid attorney for members of the Sackler family.

According to a source with detailed knowledge of the matter, Strange represented his clients at a gathering of the Republican Attorneys General Association in West Virginia over the summer, where he worked to convince AGs to accept Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy plan.

Strange and his like-minded corporate protectors on the right seem to be ignoring signs that the Sackler family is engaging in apparent bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion, as we wrote last month, borrowing on original reporting at Splinter News:

Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed 33 financial institutions with ties to the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The subpoenas are tied to James’ effort to track billions of dollars the family allegedly transferred out of Purdue Pharma to hide profits before the company declares bankruptcy, The New York Times and other media reported.

The findings announced on Friday come from only one of the financial institutions that responded to the subpoenas, the Times said.

The attorney general’s office said it found about $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family, some of which went through Swiss bank accounts.

“While the Sacklers continue to low ball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct. The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena,” James said in a statement.

Is Luther Strange engaging in conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion as he pushes for a hasty settlement that likely would be highly favorable to is clients, the Sackler family? That appears to be a question investigators should be asking.

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