State Lawmakers Questioning Attorney General's Opioid Settlement Decision

Monday, April 1st 2019, 7:17 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

State Attorney General Mike Hunter is coming under fire for reaching a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma without first consulting the state legislature. 

The bulk of the settlement will be going to OSU for research into opioid treatment. Lawmakers question whether the attorney general has the authority to make that call, and whether the deal benefits the company it was supposed to punish. 

Read Related Story: Oklahoma Opioid Lawsuit Settlement to Fund OSU Recovery Center

“The more I dug into it the more dissatisfied I became,” said Representative Mark McBride (R) Moore.

McBride says the settlement leaves a stale taste in his mouth. 

As part of the deal, Purdue will pay $102 million toward the “Oklahoma State University’s Center for Wellness and Recovery,” and the family that owns Purdue will pay $75 million to the foundation over five years.

“So, we were dealing with crooks basically. They drove the train on that settlement,” said McBride. “So now, we’re struggling. We’ve gotta get this endowment of 501c3 or whatever. We’ve gotta get that set up, so the Sackler family themselves can donate money to Oklahoma State University,” continued McBride.

He says that means tax breaks for the family that owns Purdue.

“I don’t know anything,” said Attorney Mike Hunter. “We didn’t analyze the tax effects of having a foundation that would receive the money.” 

There’s also the question of whether Hunter had the authority to determine where the money would go. According to state statute, the attorney general is, “To pay into the State Treasury immediately upon it’s receipt, all monies received by the Attorney General belonging to the state.”

“He never received it, is the argument that’s being posed,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore. 

Hunter added, “That money doesn’t ever go through my hands or the office of AG.”

Between now and the time the foundation is set up, the money will be overseen by three non-elected officials. They are not subject to open records laws.