As Purdue restructures its business in hopes of signing a multibillion-dollar opioid settlement, revelations about the drugmaker’s operations are slowly coming to light. One notable finding? The company’s founding family, the Sacklers, made a lot of money—up to $13 billion, in fact.
Thousands of local and state plaintiffs are fighting Purdue’s attempt to halt litigation as it undergoes a court-supervised restructuring tied to a massive opioid settlement in Ohio that could reach as high as $12 billion.
As part of that deal reportedly reached in September, the Sacklers agreed to pay $3 billion of their own money while Purdue will reorganize as a public benefit trust. The agreement, which has yet to be formally approved and has faced stiff pushback from some state attorneys general, would become the largest settlement ever signed by a drugmaker.
While the Sacklers’ rumored haul from Purdue and its bestselling opioid OxyContin over the years has varied, a September deposition from Jesse DelConte, a restructuring consultant for Purdue, said the family transferred between $12 billion and $13 billion from the company. DelConte did not say what period those transfers covered.
In a series of court filings Friday, local and state plaintiffs called Purdue’s attempt to halt the ongoing lawsuits as a “firebreak” strategy to shield the Sacklers’ wealth and accused the drugmaker of attempting to force the global settlement it aimed for.
In an emailed statement, Purdue pushed back against those allegations but didn't comment on the reported $13 billion the Sacklers received.
“Purdue’s request for a stay cannot be construed as an effort by the company to use the bankruptcy to evade responsibility or oversight,” the company said. “To the contrary, the settlement structure already offers 100 percent of Purdue without the plaintiffs having to win a single court case. So, bankruptcy is being used to give Purdue to its claimants, not to shield the company from them.“
A Raymond Sackler family attorney said the $13 billion figure cited in the deposition was not reflective of the amount the family actually received.
"The distribution numbers do not reflect the fact that many billions of dollars from that amount were paid in taxes and reinvested in businesses that will be sold as part of the proposed settlement," attorney Daniel S. Connolly said in a statement.
The pressure against Purdue comes on the heels of the drugmaker requesting court approval to pay out $34 million in annual and long-term incentives to some of its employees.
In September, Purdue said it planned to honor $26.5 million for its annual incentive plan, which awards employees based on personal performance and the financial performance of the company. The drugmaker also sought $7.9 million for its long-term cash incentive program, which covers three years of employee performance.
In an emailed statement at the time, Purdue said the incentive funds were important tools to retain employees and are standard across pharma. However, the drugmaker didn’t specify which of its 700 employees were eligible for the incentives or whether the incentives were appropriate given the company’s bankruptcy filing. No member of the Sackler family is currently employed at Purdue.
“Retaining our talented and dedicated employees is a key determinant of the company’s future value,” the company said. “These bonus payments at the company are awarded through long-standing annual benefit plans, are reasonable in amount and similar programs are commonplace at most companies.”
So far, dozens of states and local entities have opposed the payout attempt, saying the company had not made clear which employees were eligible for the incentives.
“The employees who were responsible for or directly involved in the wrongdoing should not be rewarded with bonuses, whether styled as annual incentive plans, sign-on bonuses or severance payments,” attorneys for the state of Arizona said in a filing last week. “(Purdue) provides little to no detail regarding which employees would receive these payments, or whether those employees participated in the illegal practices resulting in the opioid epidemic.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a comment from a Sackler family attorney.