“I think they are a group of sanctimonious billionaires who lied and cheated so they could make a handsome profit. I truly believe that they have blood on their hands.” These are the words used by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro after news broke that the Sackler family had tanked negotiations seeking to hold Purdue Pharma responsible for its role in the nation’s opioid crisis.
Reports indicated that a settlement between the states, towns, and other municipalities ravaged by highly addictive painkiller addiction and the corporation that manufactured those painkillers might be possible. A proposed structure would have turned Purdue Pharma into the antidote for the very scourge it created; a trust that would dole out anti-opioid resources to those that needed them.
The settlement, as most perceived it, wouldn’t have cost the Sackler family a cent. Most of the cost of the agreement would have been absorbed by the sale of the family’s international pharmaceutical corporation. The rest would have been funded by – ironically – the continued sale and distribution of OxyContin, the corporation’s most profitable opioid.
With such a settlement now off the table and Purdue seeking bankruptcy protection, the question now turns to how best to recoup expenses from the Sacklers themselves. Thanks to a veritable web of corporations, shell corporations, and offshore accounts, that question is incredibly difficult to answer. The Sackler’s London estate, for instance, is not owned by the Sacklers. Rather, it and the 5,000 acres it occupies an hour and a half outside of London, England is owned by seven separate corporations. Most of them are based out of Bermuda. All of them have their controls stemming from an offshore trust.
In fact, most of the Sacklers’ money is sheltered and protected from the long arm of the law in a collection of offshore trusts and accounts. These accounts are structured and created specifically to shield fortunes from claims of liability. In many cases, they require the skills of a forensic accountant to reverse engineer.
So, as the states prepare for the next phase of their pursuit of justice, the family that bears much of the responsibility for a crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands rests easy knowing that their approximate net worth of some $13 billion is tucked away and safe. They could have helped. They could have worked to undo some of the unspeakable harm that they themselves wrought. This story could have ended differently. But, as the email circulated among the states’ various attorneys general so succinctly stated, “the Sacklers refused to budge.”