Bipartisan Attorneys General, Career Prosecutor, and Advocates Urge Congress to Pass the SACKLER Act
Washington, D.C. (June 8, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing to examine the Sackler family’s role in fueling America’s opioid epidemic and policies to promote accountability, like the SACKLER Act.
At the hearing, Democratic Attorney General of Massachusetts Maura Healey, Republican Attorney General of Idaho Lawrence Wasden, author Patrick Radden Keefe, and Executive Director of Truth Pharm, Alexis Pleus, all testified in favor of the SACKLER Act.
The Committee also released a video submitted by Rick Mountcastle, the career prosecutor who led the four-year federal investigation into Purdue’s lies about OxyContin’s addictive potential, calling on Congress to pass the SACKLER Act to hold the Sackler family accountable.
Chairwoman Maloney and senior Committee Member Rep. Mark DeSaulnier introduced the bill on March 19, 2021, to close a loophole in bankruptcy law by preventing individuals who have not filed for bankruptcy from obtaining releases from lawsuits brought by states, Tribes, municipalities, or the U.S. government in bankruptcy.
The SACKLER Act has been cosponsored by more than 55 Members of Congress and endorsed by dozens of patient, treatment, and corporate accountability organizations. Multiple editorial boards have called on Congress to pass the SACKLER Act.
At the hearing, bipartisan witnesses discussed why Congress must urgently pass the bill to prevent bad actors like the Sackler family from abusing the bankruptcy system to escape accountability.
- Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, a Republican, stated: “Ensuring accountability for the misconduct that contributed to the opioid epidemic is not a partisan issue. It matters to Republicans and Democrats. It matters to every American. It certainly matters to me and my state. For these reasons, I hope the legislation to stop the Sacklers’ abuse of the bankruptcy system will receive bipartisan support and be enacted into law.”
- When asked by Rep. Gerry Connolly about some Committee Republicans’ apparent resistance to hold the Sacklers accountable, Ms. Pleus, whose son Jeff died of an opioid overdose, said: “It’s stunning to me that this Committee has an opportunity to hold the greatest family cartel in the history of the United States and possibly the world responsible for what they have done. And yet here you are distracting from your opportunity by focusing on the Southern border, which is a waste of time, money and resources. The other countries that have lower overdose fatality rates do not have walls built around their countries.”
Witnesses explained how the Sacklers have never been held accountable for the irreparable harm they inflicted on communities across the United States, and warned that unless Congress acts, the Sacklers are poised to get away with it again.
- In his recorded statement, Rick Mountcastle stated: “The Sackler family is the cartel of the opioid crisis. They used their company and their underlings to profit from repeated criminal conduct while escaping accountability. It would be a gross injustice to allow them to game a bankruptcy loophole to keep those profits. I urge passage of the SACKLER Act.”
- In response to questioning from Rep. Hank Johnson, Attorney General Healey stated: “Absent action through the SACKLER Act, a bankruptcy judge will be able to wipe free all claims against the Sackler family.” AG Healey further stressed that should the settlement receive final approval, it will leave members of the Sackler family “richer than they are today.”
Witnesses and Committee Members agreed that it would be a tragic miscarriage of justice if the Sackler family was able to get off the hook for fueling the opioid crisis and killing half a million Americans.
- Ms. Pleus, testifying one day before what should have been her son’s 35th birthday, stated that Purdue’s actions to deceptively market OxyContin directly contributed to his death: “If he hadn’t gotten addicted in the first place, I know he would be here today.” She further stressed the need to promote accountability for the opioid crisis, stating: “We lose 186 people per million each year. … We are here for the SACKLER Act today.”
- In his testimony to the Committee, Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, described the proposal to grant the Sackler family legal immunity through Purdue’s bankruptcy as “a colossal miscarriage of justice.” He continued: “In considering whether to close this loophole or to protect the family, I would urge each of you to consider your own districts, your own constituents, the communities across this country that have been ravaged by opioids.”