Morrisey favors moving ahead with proposed Purdue Pharma settlement

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey thinks West Virginia is best off participating in a tentative settlement with the Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

The proposed settlement over the effects of the opioid crisis was made public Wednesday.

Purdue Pharma has pointed toward Chapter 11 bankruptcy one way or another. Reaching an agreement between the company and plaintiffs prior to that could pave the way to a structured bankruptcy.

Doing so could expedite payment to the drug-ravaged communities, while also providing more certainty. Morrisey characterized the possible settlement as the best way to influence bankruptcy.

“This is going to enable the state of West Virginia to protect our state’s interests in light of the pending bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma,” Morrisey told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.

He emphasized that discussions so far have led to a preliminary framework, not a final agreement.

“I can pull West Virginia out of the framework at any time,” he said. “But the price of not participating in the bankruptcy process now would have cost our office a place to influence any final settlement. So I think this is the best way to protect our state’s interests.”

Attorneys General in some states are not taking part. Those include Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the tentative deal “a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family’s destruction and greed.”

As The New York Times reported, the settlement involves the dissolution of Purdue Pharma. A new company would be formed to sell OxyContin, its opioid-based pain medication. The proceeds from the new company would go to a public beneficiary company that would pay the plaintiffs.

The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, would give up control of the company and pay $3 billion in cash over seven years.

All told, the deal would be worth $10 billion to $12 billion, media outlets were reporting.

“It is my intent to make sure that this agreement — any agreement — has accountability with the Sackler family with Purdue and that West Virginia is able to take an additional step in fighting this opioid epidemic,” Morrisey said.

He later added, “I want to make sure we can extract every bit we can out of the Sacklers.”

Morrisey announced in March a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family. West Virginia joined other states, counties and cities across the country in a legal attempt to hold the company accountable for the effects of the opioid epidemic.

The tentative settlement would be with 27 states and territories and more than 2,000 cities and counties that sued the company.

Among the major issues still remaining is how any settlement money would be divided among those.

“We do think there will be support from the cities and counties, but there are a lot of details to be resolved,” Morrisey said. “This is an opportunity to continue discussions and put our state in a better place.”

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