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Maloney presses for action on bill focused on accountability in opioid crisis

Maloney presses for action on bill focused on accountability in opioid crisis
© Bonnie Cash

Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator Teamsters refused to pay a ransomware attack in 2019 Oversight chair presses JBS on why it paid ransom over cyberattack MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday pressed lawmakers to approve legislation that is meant to prevent the Sackler family from avoiding lawsuits related to the opioid crisis. 

“Congress has a duty to ensure that there is accountability for this deadly crisis and to prevent bad actors like the Sacklers from evading responsibility when they harm American communities,” Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told reporters during a press call. 

“We must pass the SACKLER Act before the bankruptcy plan is confirmed and the Sackler family will practically get off scot-free,” she continued.

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The legislation would prevent people who have not filed for bankruptcy from being released from lawsuits brought by states, municipalities or the U.S. government, including those related to the opioid epidemic.

The legislation is meant to respond to a $10 billion restructuring plan Purdue Pharma announced in March that would allow it to leave bankruptcy. The company is the subject of lawsuits related to the opioid crisis.

Under the plan, the company would transfer its assets to a company dedicated to fighting the opioid crisis, and members of the Sackler family would pay almost $4.3 billion over a decade to pay for the effort. In exchange, the family members would have “no involvement” in the new company and would be legally released from facing opioid-related lawsuits.

Purdue Pharma told The Hill in a statement that it's focused on "advancing" its proposed reorganization plan to "transfer billions of dollars of value" into trusts to help Americans and communities affected by the epidemic.

"Our broadly supported plan will deliver funds and resources that are needed now and have a profoundly positive impact on public health," the company said. 

Maloney asserts that members of the Sackler family are using “a loophole in our bankruptcy system to protect their billions of dollars in wealth.” 

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She said she plans to write to Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandGarland vows fight against voting limits that violate law House Democrats push Garland for immigration court reforms Jeff Hauser: MacBride nomination is a return to administrations that ended 'rule-of-law' and 'rich-person accountability' MORE to ask him to reconsider the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) position in the case. She accused the department of having “been complicit in devising” the settlement plan. 

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

When asked about whether she had “realistic hope” that the Sackler Act could go into effect in time to affect the bankruptcy case, Maloney responded, “I certainly hope so.”  

She added that she hopes to gain Republican support to make the legislation that has more than 50 sponsors a bipartisan effort. 

The chair held the press conference ahead of the House Oversight and Reform committee’s second hearing on the Sackler family’s role in the opioid epidemic. 

Tuesday’s hearing follows the December testimony from David and Kathy Sackler, who denied wrongdoing in the crisis and pointed the finger at Purdue Pharma instead.  

Almost a half-million people have died during the opioid epidemic in the U.S., nearly reaching the current number of COVID-19 deaths in the country.

--Updated on June 9 at 6:58 a.m.