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Vermont And Connecticut AGs Discuss Their Refusals To Join Purdue Pharma Settlement

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan (file)

On Thursday, 15 states led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and New York Attorney General Tish James announced a bankruptcy settlement agreement with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family over the opioid crisis. Nine states and the District of Columbia oppose the deal — including Vermont and Connecticut.

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says the proposed bankruptcy plan does not hold the Sackler family sufficiently accountable. He spoke with WAMC Friday.

“The fact that through bankruptcy court the folks who started this company, who profited from this company, who are billionaires and will walk out of bankruptcy court as billionaires and have all the cases dismissed against them through bankruptcy court because they added value to a settlement I find objectionable, "said Donovan. 

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a fellow Democrat, also opposes the settlement. He echoed Donovan’s sentiments during an interview Thursday on NPR: 

“This is an abuse of the bankruptcy process The Sacklers are not bankrupt," Tong said. "They have tens of billions of dollars that they’ve pilfered from this company. And for them to use the bankruptcy process to shield themselves and protect themselves is an outrage.”

If Vermont had joined the settlement it would receive $13 million over nine years. Attorney General Donovan says that is not enough to repair the damage that has been done. 

“What these settlements are about is bringing in the dollars to abate this crisis," Donovan said. "And $13 million over nine years to the state of Vermont it’s not enough money. It’s too long of a time and it doesn’t hold the Sackler family accountable. So many folks ended up in the criminal justice system because of their addiction and many people have lost their lives. Many people have had their lives ruined. Families have been destroyed as a result of this addiction.  And the family that profited from this drug doesn’t have to answer questions and can go into bankruptcy court and get claims dismissed. You know that may be the law but I don’t have to say yes to it.”

Donovan does approve of the settlement’s requirement that the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma create a repository of millions of documents. 

“The first thing we need to have is the transparency and the full accounting of how did this crisis unfold? And so we’re hoping that those documents will shed light on some of those questions," Donovan said. "And I think it’s a major win and I give credit to General James from New York and General Healey from Massachusetts really fighting for the release of those dockets including, quite remarkable, those documents that otherwise would have been privileged those attorney-client documents that will now be turned over. And you think about those families that have suffered. People have a right to know how this happened.”  
A hearing will be held in bankruptcy court and if the settlement is approved it could be appealed by the objecting states.

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