Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin has joined five Senate colleagues in requesting that the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York reject Purdue Pharma’s requests for executive and employee bonuses. Purdue’s requested $34.7 million in employee bonuses, including $5.4 million for its top executives, could amount to more than payouts for victims and families, the senators say.
Baldwin, alongside Sens. Richard Bluementhal (D-Conn.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote a joint letter to Judge Robert Drain requesting that Purdue’s terms be rejected. The senators argued that under Purdue’s plan, about 55 bonus-eligible employees would get up to $67,000. The senators stressed that, “Purdue’s proposed bankruptcy reorganization plan will cap payouts to individual claimants at $48,000, but only in cases where an individual was prescribed OxyContin and died as a direct result. Most victims and their families will receive far less.”
Purdue has been the target of ongoing lawsuits nationwide, due to its role in seeding the still-worsening opioid crisis. Drug overdose deaths continue to rise across the country, with Milwaukee County experiencing a record 544 deaths in 2020. Many of those involved fentanyl, a potent opioid with an ever-growing list of analogs turning up each year.
The appearance of fentanyl mixed with drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine is also increasing the death rates from those substances. Drug overdoses accounted for more deaths in America than car crashes, gun violence, and HIV/AIDS combined, Democracy Now reported last week. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were nearly 500,000 opioid or prescription-involved deaths between 1999 and 2019, with 93,000 in 2020 alone.
Some 15 states recently agreed to abandon their efforts to block Purdue’s bankrupcy plan. In exchange, Purdue will release tens of millions of documents and pay an expected $4.5 billion settlement. The Sackler family, which owns Purdue and reaped more than $12 billion from the company’s profits, will be shielded from being held responsible for the overdose epidemic under the terms of the settlement. In 2007, Purdue plead guilty for criminally misbranding their prescription products.
“It would be contrary to public policy and public health — and a miscarriage of justice — to provide those running an alleged ‘criminal enterprise’ with upwards of $35 million in bonuses, including $5.4 million for top executives,” the senators state in their letter. “As such, we request the funds currently proposed for executive and employee incentive and retention plans instead be made available to victims, their families, and communities.”
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