Editorial: Close bankruptcy escape hatch

More than 450,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses in less than a decade. Though the synthetic and powerful opioid fentanyl now is the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths, the epidemic had its roots in prescription opioid addiction.

That, in turn, had its roots in a marketing strategy for prescription opioids that falsely claimed that the drugs were not addictive, and encouraging doctors to consider pain to be as important a condition as the underlying cause.


That strategy, in turn, was developed by Purdue Pharma, developer of the powerful opioid painkiller OxyContin.

Thousands of lawsuits by state governments and individuals have been filed against the privately held company and its owners, the Sackler family of Connecticut, who have wealth estimated at $10.8 billion.

The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2019 as the lawsuits accumulated, and the family subsequently asked the court to include them in the protections sought by the company, at least temporarily freezing the lawsuits.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Carolyn R. Maloney of New York, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, and Mark DeSaulnier of California, have introduced the SACKLER Act — Stop Shielding Assets from Corporate Known Liability by Eliminating Non-Debtor Releases Act.


It would preclude individuals accused of wrongdoing by state or federal governments from using bankruptcy as an escape hatch to evade personal responsibility for damages.

People harmed by others’ wayward conduct should not be precluded from compensation through inappropriate use of bankruptcy protections. Congress should pass the bill.