Speed Reads


John Oliver rages against the Sackler family and their 'bulls--t' looming OxyContin settlement

Last Week Tonight has already done two episodes on the opioid epidemic, "but we thought it would be worth be doing a third installment tonight anyway, for a couple of reasons," John Oliver said on Sunday night's show. "First, it's an epidemic that's still very much ranging, exacerbated by both the pandemic and illicit fentanyl, to the point that last year, nearly 70,000 died from opioid overdoses. That is the highest annual death toll ever." The second — and main — reason involves Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin; its recent legal developments; and the family that controls the company, the Sacklers.

Facing a federal investigation and a flurry of institutional and individual lawsuits, the Sacklers "have spent years working with an army of lawyers, attempting to negotiate their way out of everything," Oliver said. Finally, Purdue pleaded guilty to several felonies last fall, then reorganized in a way that ended Sackler ownership of the company, and "this might all sound like a major victory, that the Sacklers are finally experiencing significant consequences. But unfortunately, that could not be farther from the truth."

"With the bankruptcy's confirmation hearing scheduled to begin later this week, let's talk about the Sackler family: how hard they've been fighting to defend their name, the details of the deal that they're attempting to strike, and why the whole thing is a bunch of bulls--t," Oliver said. He elaborated, focusing most of his show on the Sacklers' legal machinations.

"The bankruptcy deal that Purdue has proposed is the vehicle through which the Sacklers are likely to escape any true accountability," thanks to a "non-consensual third-party release," Oliver said. "And this thing is bulls--t. Because if they get it, all current lawsuits against the Sacklers evaporate and no future lawsuits can be filed, meaning that the Sacklers — who didn't file for personal bankruptcy themselves, remember — are basically off the hook. And if it sounds weird to you that a company can declare bankruptcy and then a bunch of individuals get shielded from liability, that's because it is."

The Sackers will likely lose little money, because the way the settlement is structured, "and it's just infuriating that things are set to end so comfortably for a family that has made so much at the expense of so many," Oliver said. You can watch his takedown below and visit his modicum of "justice" at JudgeForYourselves.com.