Two ongoing cases playing out in federal bankruptcy court underscore the ways rich people try to game the justice system to their own advantage and avoid much-needed accountability. The cases scream of manipulation if not outright fraud in the name of protecting wealth and privilege for a selected few. Greed is on full display in these two court cases, and it's up to bankruptcy judges to halt the coddling of the wealthy and affording them legal privileges they do not deserve.
Exhibit A is the Sacklers, whose controlling interest in Purdue Pharma made family members some of the richest people on the planet. On their watch, Purdue launched an aggressive campaign to market its highly addictive opioid medicine, Oxycontin, as America's go-to pain relief drug. The Sackler family raked in billions off Oxycontin, and because it was so addictive, Purdue enjoyed a captive clientele that kept coming back for more and more. That is, until users either kicked their addiction, began using heroin, or died.
Now the Sacklers are in bankruptcy court pleading for immunity from liability lawsuits for any role the family played in the addiction crisis in exchange for a flat $4.2 billion payment. There's just one tiny detail worth noting: The Sacklers aren't anywhere close to being bankrupt. Purdue is, and they are trying to piggyback on the company's dissolution proceedings even while asserting that the family's fortune is wholly independent of the company's finances.
Thousands of lives were ruined by the Sackler family's product and Purdue Pharma's aggressive marketing practices. This entire bankruptcy proceeding is unethical and of dubious legality, as many public officials and activists have stated publicly.
The Sacklers aren't alone on that front. Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, is trying a similar — and similarly bogus — tactic to avert legal scrutiny in New York, the state where the nonprofit has been registered for the past 150 years. LaPierre took it upon himself to file for the organization's bankruptcy in a Dallas court without informing his entire board or senior managers. And, like the Sacklers, the NRA admits it is not in danger of bankruptcy. LaPierre is simply using bankruptcy court as a tool to justify transferring the organization's registry to Texas to avoid regulatory oversight, New York Attorney General Letitia James argues.
Even the federal trustee's office that would oversee the NRA in bankruptcy says that the NRA is solvent and that the case should be dismissed. LaPierre is trying to avoid oversight after having repeatedly charged his personal expenses to the organization's accounts, among other potential illegalities, the trustee's office has argued.
The abuses exemplified in the Sacklers' and NRA filings deserve court-ordered sanctions; otherwise, more such cases are certain to arise. And if the courts won't punish these practices, Congress should.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Photo credit: stevepb at Pixabay