AG Donovan says he pledged to challenge opioid drugmaker’s bankruptcy plan
Last week, the state of Vermont and four others filed a legal case seeking to overturn a bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma. The plan would grant the Sackler family – the owners and founders of the business – legal immunity from future lawsuits regarding Purdue’s role in creating the opioid epidemic. In return, the Sackler family would pay $ 4.3 billion over nine years to help curb the public health crisis. More than a dozen states have accepted the deal.
But Vermont and the other four states have held out for months, refusing the settlement plan. Attorney General TJ Donovan says he’s not holding the Sackler family sufficiently accountable.
Liam Elder-Connors of VPR spoke with Donovan about recent developments in the case. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Liam Elder-Connors: As I mentioned in the introduction, Vermont and four other states have refused to settle with Purdue and are seeking to overturn the bankruptcy plan. For those of us who are not lawyers, could you describe exactly what you hope to accomplish?
Attorney General TJ Donovan: Of course. Well, we’ve appealed the bankruptcy court approval of Purdue’s bankruptcy plan. And the part we’re disputing with, which is the basis of the appeal, is the non-consensual disclosure by a third party of our claims – the claims of the state of Vermont and other states – against the billionaire family, the Sacklers. .
More from RVP: “Too little money over too long a period:” AG Donovan says he opposes Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan
Basically you have billionaires going to bankruptcy court – not declaring bankruptcy, not party to bankruptcy – but adding value to the underlying deal i.e. money. In return, they get all the claims against them dismissed. I think it is unfair. I don’t think this is how our justice system should work. That is why we appealed.
Now, there is something that I think was very positive that happened during that bankruptcy appeal hearing last week. The reason we filed an additional brief is that the judge asked the parties, in essence, what we call the research question: whether the Sacklers had abused the bankruptcy process by planning to withdraw billions of dollars from the bankruptcy. company after 2007. So it’s a real issue, I think, of equity. It’s a real threshold question: are there two different justice systems in this country – one for the very rich and one for the rest of us?
We need money to invest in our community to address drug addiction – it takes money. And that has to be money that will last for decades, frankly.
– Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan
Well, what’s the next step if the court agrees? What’s your final phase here?
Well my endgame is maximizing the payback for the state of Vermont. We had, I think, the highest rate of overdose deaths last year during the pandemic. People are struggling. We need the resources. We need money to invest in our community to address drug addiction – it takes money. And it’s got to be money that’ll last decades, frankly
Is Vermont at risk of losing a settlement payment if your legal challenge ultimately fails?
Listen, you’re always at risk anytime you get involved in litigation. You are always at risk when appealing court decisions. But at the end of the day, you have to do what you think is right.
But I’m just wondering, more specifically, is Vermont at risk of losing money if this challenge is not successful?
I’m confident there will be a pickup for the state of Vermont at the end of the day.
Okay. How long are you willing to stick around in this particular fight? Are you prepared to keep moving forward even if some of the largest coalition states, like California, were to pull out?
Yeah, I think I am. Listen, you know, when you’re involved in this, you’ve got to be prepared to put all your chips in the middle of the table, and say that you’re fully engaged in this process. In litigation. Oppose something that you think is wrong. And I am, at the end.
I am not ready to settle for something today. I think that often no deal is better than a bad deal.
– Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan
But that being said, I also understand that in the final analysis we will come to a final judgment somewhere in the judicial process, and I will accept that final judgment. And I also understand what the bottom line for Vermont is – that we need these resources. But I’m not ready to settle for something today. I think that often no deal is better than a bad deal. And so that’s not enough money for the state of Vermont. I think right now it’s maybe, roughly, $ 12 million over nine years for the Purdue settlement in the state of Vermont? It is not enough.
Opioid overdose deaths have reached record highs in this country during the pandemic. And the numbers for Vermont, as you mentioned, have gone up quite a bit as well. In an attempt to reduce overdose deaths, New York City has opened the nation’s first supervised injection sites. Do you support the creation of similar facilities in Vermont?
Yes, I am open-minded and I think things have changed with the Biden administration. You will recall that under the Trump administration the American lawyer here in Vermont, as was her right, opposed these overdose recovery sites and said she would sue people. And it’s not just the people who can administer the drug or take the drug, it’s also the owner who owns the building. It is also the insurance company that will subscribe to this company.
And so we need clarity from the federal government because we don’t want people to run the risk of having their assets seized. But we need some clarity, which I think we’ll get from our federal counterparts, so people can go ahead with that. Because look, each of these deaths is a tragedy. And we need to make sure we have options and opportunities across our state to prevent these overdose deaths.
This is Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan. Thanks a lot for the time.
Thank you for.
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