Speed Reads

opioid crisis

Uncovered Sackler family wire transfers are raising eyebrows

The New York attorney general's office in a court filing Friday said it uncovered about $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family, the owners of pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma.

The discovery comes after thousands of municipal governments and 23 states tentatively reached a settlement with the Sacklers and Purdue, which manufactures OxyContin, over the company's alleged role in the opioid crisis plaguing the United States. The transfers have raised speculation that the Sacklers could have been trying to hide assets while facing litigation.

The attorney general's office only presented initial findings, and its major discovery was from 2009, long before the lawsuits began. But the filing said they identified "previously unknown shell companies" that Mortimer Sackler used to move Purdue money through international accounts before concealing it in real estate investments. A spokesman for Mortimer Sackler said there was nothing "newsworthy" about the "decade-old" transfers.

While it would reportedly be difficult to unveil the family's true international wealth, some legal experts do think the findings could spell bad news for the Sacklers. "The bigger question is how this is going to affect what many cities have already agreed to," Adam Zimmerman, an expert in complex litigation at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, said, referring to the tentative settlement. "We might see, with these allegations, more state [attorneys general] saying they are opposed to it, and maybe even some cities."

Elizabeth Burch, a professor at the University of Georgia Law School, told The New York Times the findings should give those states objecting to the settlement "more wiggle room" to argue for more disclosure, which "could lead to criminal exposure for the Sacklers." Read more at The New York Times and NBC News.