Purdue Pharma executives asked a judge to allow “certain employees” to receive more than $34 million in bonuses after the company filed for bankruptcy amid thousands of lawsuits accusing it of helping facilitate the opioid crisis, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Purdue reportedly asked in a filing for permission to pay out the bonuses to employees who had met “target performance goals” over the last three years.
In a Tuesday bankruptcy court hearing in White Plains, N.Y., Paul Schwartzberg, an attorney for the U.S. Trustee Program, said that while companies often pay employees during bankruptcy proceedings, the proposed bonuses are “way beyond” typical circumstances.
“That $34 million is owed to the victims of the opioid epidemic, and every last cent should be spent on addiction science, treatment and recovery,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“Purdue and the Sacklers still don’t seem to comprehend the pain and suffering they have caused,” he added, referencing the family that founded and owns the company and are themselves the subject of several lawsuits.
“While I am sympathetic to the workers at Purdue, many of whom live in my hometown and state and had nothing to do with the egregious actions of their employer, this is not business as usual.”
Purdue did not specify which employees it wished to give bonuses but said they would not go to any of the top executives behind its “strategic decision-making,” according to the Post. Attorneys for the company said the compensation is necessary to retain workers, noting that about a quarter of its “top tier” has departed since last year.
“These employees have highly coveted skills in the industry and the company is not an easy place to work right now,” Eli Vonnegut, an attorney representing Purdue Pharma, said at the bankruptcy hearing.
It “would be very difficult to attract new talent were the company to lose its current employees. With all the negative publicity, many employees are concerned about the economic risks that they are taking by staying at Purdue,” he added, according to the Post.