Supreme Court rejects bankruptcy shield for billionaire Sacklers over OxyContin harm – National & International News – THU 27Jun2024

SCOTUS rejects bankruptcy shield for Sackler family over OxyContin harm.

First Biden-Trump Presidential debate tonight.


Supreme Court rejects bankruptcy shield for billionaire Sacklers over OxyContin harm

Over the last several years, the billionaire Sackler family (who formerly owned OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma) have negotiated a deal in federal bankruptcy courts that would shield them from any future liability related to the opioid crisis they were instrumental in fueling. In a scheme that spanned two decades, members of the Sackler family, who took an active role in the company’s leadership, knowingly pushed dangerous sales quotas of the powerful and highly addictive opioid painkiller. They persisted in doing this even after Purdue was forced to pay a hefty fine for its harmful business practices. 

From the late 1990s to the early 2010s, tens of thousands of people died either from directly overdosing on OxyContin, or after becoming addicted to other opiates once they were no longer able to obtain OxyContin. Over that period, the family enriched themselves by an estimated $10 billion, largely driven by OxyContin sales. 

As part of this highly unusual and controversial bankruptcy deal, the Sacklers agreed to pay roughly $6 billion in exchange for immunity from any future OxyContin-related lawsuits, including wrongful death suits. The money would go partly towards restitution for victims of addiction (or their surviving family members), but the bulk would go to addiction treatment and other harm reduction programs in affected communities. The Sacklers were able to keep a good chunk of their wealth and shield themselves from future litigation, all without fully disclosing their finances to their creditors, or even actually declaring bankruptcy themselves.

No more immunity

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has struck down this deal, with Neil Gorsuch (who wrote the majority opinion) stating that the Sacklers were seeking protections not usually afforded in bankruptcy proceedings, and without having to come clean about their finances. “The Sacklers have not agreed to place anything approaching their full assets on the table for opioid victims, ” Gorsuch wrote. “Yet they seek a judicial order that would extinguish virtually all claims against them for fraud, willful injury, and even wrongful death, all without the consent of those who have brought and seek to bring such claims”.

Gorsuch argued that the parameters of this deal were not only overly generous to the Sacklers, but also fell well outside the bounds of bankruptcy law. “Describe the relief the Sacklers seek how you will, nothing in the bankruptcy code contemplates (much less authorizes) it,” Gorsuch wrote.

In addition to Gorsuch, conservative Justices Thomas, Alito, and Barrett and liberal Justice Jackson voted with the majority. The dissenters were liberal Justices Sotomayor and Kagan and conservative Justices Roberts and Cavanaugh. 

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First Presidential debate tonight

President Biden and former President Donald Trump will face off in their first presidential debate for this cycle tonight at 9pm ET/8pm CT on CNN. The debate should last roughly 90 minutes.

Trump and Biden have agreed to some ground rules that may change the dynamic of the debate compared with previous presidential debates. Firstly, both candidates will remain standing at a podium. Each of their microphones will be muted except when it is their turn to speak. This will prevent crosstalk, interruptions and interjections by the two candidates. This rule will likely impact Trump’s debate performance more than Biden’s. There will also be no live audience during tonight’s debate, which again is more likely to impact Trump than Biden. The candidates will not be permitted to use notes, however, they will be allowed to have a pencil and paper to jot down notes.

This debate will also be unusual in that it will be the first debate either candidate has engaged in this cycle, as neither Biden nor Trump has participated in any debates with primary opponents.

The second scheduled debate will be on ABC in September. Tonight’s debate is the first presidential debate not to be organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates since 1984. It is also one of the earliest relative to election day.

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