As scrutiny of Purdue Pharma's role in the opioid epidemic intensified during the past dozen years, its owners, members of the Sackler family, withdrew more than $10 billion from the company, distributing it among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue.
The amount is more than eight times what the family took out of the company in the 13 years after OxyContin, its signature product, was approved in 1995. The audit is likely to renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.
The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion in cash as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by Massachusetts and New York, have refused to sign on to the agreement, arguing that the Sacklers should pay more.
The new report, a 350-page forensic accounting prepared by Alix Partners, a consulting firm that Purdue has hired to help guide the company through Chapter 11 restructuring, was filed in bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y.
Ultimately, it does not answer a key question for investigators — how much the Sacklers are actually worth and where their money is kept.
But the report does detail checks and disbursements that Purdue made to the family in the years after the company's guilty plea in 2007 to federal charges that it deceptively marketed OxyContin as nonaddictive. It could be used to support allegations as to whether the Sacklers intentionally withdrew large annual sums to shield the money from litigation as legal pressures mounted.
The audit notes that in the first dozen years that OxyContin was approved — from 1995 through 2007 — Purdue's payouts to the Sacklers totaled just $1.32 billion; from 2008 through 2017, the period of intense scrutiny by the auditors, the payments totaled $10.7 billion.
By 2017, the Sacklers had voted to stop taking cash payments and Purdue ended the practice.
The report also shows that nearly half the amount sent to the Sacklers was designated to pay taxes, suggesting that less than half the Sackler distributions might actually be available in cash. During the years covered by the audit, the report says, Purdue paid $4.1 billion to the Sacklers, $1.6 billion to their affiliated companies and $4.6 billion for taxes.
The auditors reported that they did not know how much cash distributed to the Sacklers was actually used to pay taxes. The payments were often directed to trusts based in countries known as tax havens, like Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands.
A lawyer for some of the Sacklers, Daniel Connolly, said in a statement that the family had used the $10.7 billion appropriately and legally. "This filing reflects the fact that more than half was paid in taxes and reinvested in businesses that will be sold as part of the proposed settlement," the statement said.
Connolly said about 90% of the tax distributions did go toward tax payments.
Some tax bills were paid on the Sackler family's behalf. Purdue directed nearly $2.3 billion to the U.S. Treasury for the Sacklers, and also made payments to a number of states, including nearly $97 million to New Jersey.
The Sacklers have said they will submit further financial information early next year to the bankruptcy court.