(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 a decade was an illegal attempt to protect assets pending disputes about their role in the opioid crisis.
However, a review of emails, notes, deposits, legal proposals and other documents not closed late on Friday in Purdue's bankruptcy proceedings shows that Sackler's family members discussed potential litigation at least as early as 2007, a full decade before facing a new extensive legal attack and significant financial transfers were stopped. The documents were revoked in response to legal action by Reuters and other news organizations trying to remove their heavy editorial staff.
Purdue was brought before investigations and disputes before 2007, which it resolved. Whether creditors can show that financial transfers have since been legally questionable depends in part on whether they can show that Sacklers knew they were facing further and significant disputes that could threaten Purdue's solvency and family wealth, estimated in December at $ 1
In response to questions from a House oversight panel last week, David Sackler, who served on Purdue's board from 2012 to 2018, testified that neither he nor others foresaw major disputes that now amount to about 3,000 legal actions. "I do not think anyone knew that trials that really started in earnest in 2017 would come back in 2008," he told lawmakers.
However, in an email in March 2007 with relatives, his uncle, Jonathan, at the time director, cited "ongoing risks" two months before a Purdue branch pleaded guilty to incorrect labeling of OxyContin and added that "If there is a future perception that Purdue has destroyed compliance, we could be murdered."
In a subsequent statement, he said the family was "not really supporting" challenges that included "the emergence of many new moods." Jonathan died in June.
In May 2007, one week after the company's subsidiary's obligation, David Sackler expressed concern about future disputes to his father and uncle, who later assured him that there was no basis for suing the family.  "I hope you are right and under logical circumstances I would agree with you, but we live in America. These are the free and home of the innocent, "Sackler wrote in an email. "We will sue. Read the current affairs in these local newspapers and ask yourself how long it will take these lawyers to figure out that we can solve them if they can freeze our assets and threaten us. "
The notice was sent years before David Sackler joined Purdue's board, at a time when he knew little about the company's affairs," his lawyers told a court.
Measurement of Dispute Risk
In court applications, family members claim that Purdue management told them as recently as 2016 that they considered the risks of opioid disputes to be low and that creditors citing their emails have taken messages out of context. Most of the more than $ 10 billion they took out of Purdue went to business investment and paying taxes, with Sackler-controlled entities receiving about $ 4 billion, documents show.
"We supported the Court's issuance of documents and confirm that the members of the Sackler family who served on Purdue's board acted ethically and legally in all respects," said Sackler's family members, who are involved in disputes in a statement.
"These cherry-picked emails ignore the whole context of what they say and the rest of the legal applications, all of which show how the fraudulent transfer claims are completely without merit," added Daniel S. Connolly, attorney for the Raymond Sackler family, citing
The opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of some 450,000 people across the United States since 1999 due to overdoses of prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. Purdue creditors have persecuted the company and family through The company went bankrupt and forced Sacklers to turn over tens of millions of documents.
Government officials said the documents were in line with family members' claims. "Sacklers told Congress they did nothing wrong," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who has sued Sacklers. and Purdue along with almost everyone other states. "The evidence tells a different story – they became rich who drove the opioid crisis and plan to turn away billionaires."
& # 39; We do not want to stay & # 39;
Sackler's family members also sought to acquire additional product liability insurance and investigated selling Purdue directly to remove their problems, both without success, the documents showed.
In a February 2008 email, Mortimer DA Sackler called on Richard Sackler, at one point Purdue's president, to sell his company. "Basically, we do not want to stay in this industry anymore (given the terrible risks, prospects, difficulties, etc.) and I think the majority of your family feels the same way," Mortimer said. About a week later, he again pressed for a sale: "It is simply not wise for us to stay in the business given the future risks that we will surely face and the impact they will have on the shareholder value of the business and thus family wealth. "
" Really sorry "
Purdue said it produced tens of millions of documents for creditors, including those privileged related to Sacklers, as part of an attempt to resolve widespread litigation in a deal which it values at more than $ 10 billion, largely based on delivering substance abuse treatment and overdose drugs under development. which would contribute $ 3 billion. The unit would also continue to sell OxyContin, which has objected to Attorneys General and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
During a settlement with the US Justice Department, Purdue pleaded guilty in November to criminal charges for crimes related to its opioids and agreed. to more than $ 8 billion in penalties that are mostly unpaid.
Sackler's family members agreed to pay $ 225 million to settle civil claims they disputed. Neither they nor other individuals have been prosecuted.
At the congressional hearing, David Sackler stated that his family's press reports were incorrect. "We also fully acknowledge that there is an opioid crisis that has ruined too many lives and that OxyContin's abuse and addiction played a role in it. We are really sorry for anyone who has lost a family member or suffered from substance abuse.