WASHINGTON — Sen. Maggie Hassan is renewing her call for the release of a 2006 Department of Justice memo that laid out a case against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma — years before opioid addiction swept through New Hampshire.
In 2006, federal prosecutors investigated Purdue Pharma, and wrote a memo recommending felony charges, Hassan said. But the company hired former federal prosecutors — including Rudy Giuliani — and negotiated a plea agreement and a fine, not prison time. Hassan said this was a slap on the wrist compared to the devastation of the opioid epidemic that unfolded.
“Purdue and the Sacklers could have been held accountable over a decade ago,” Hassan said of Purdue Pharma and the family behind the opioid maker.
The existence of the memo was first reported by the New York Times in May 2018, and reporter Beth Macy detailed the influence of the company’s high-powered attorneys in her 2018 book, "Dopesick."
After those reports in 2018, Hassan and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island called for the Department of Justice to hand over the 2006 memo. This spring, Hassan said, the Justice Department essentially refused to produce the documents Hassan and Whitehouse requested. In a letter sent to Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd this week, Hassan and Whitehouse asked for the memo again.
Congress has a duty to conduct oversight of the Department of Justice, Hassan said. She said she wants to see the memo Congress so can understand what the Department of Justice found, what prosecutors recommended, and the role of political influence in their decisions.
Hassan said the memo could also be important to the civil lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.
“The court needs to understand what kind of political intercession there was on their behalf,” Hassan said. “I think we are just beginning to understand what appears to be the exercise of political influence on a critical and massively important investigation,” Hassan said.
Hassan said she wants to see the memo so she and other members of Congress can understand what the Department of Justice found, what prosecutors recommended, and was effect political influence might have had.
“Purdue and the Sacklers could have been held accountable over a decade ago,” Hassan said.
The memo and associate documents would let Congress carry out its oversight function, Hassan said.
And given the civil suits that have since been filed against Purdue Pharma and four members of the Sackler family, Hassan said the 2006 memo could be important.
“I think we are just beginning to understand what appears to be the exercise of political influence on a critical and massively important investigation,” Hassan said. She said she is concerned that Giuliani and other former Department of Justice officials exercised political influence to let Purdue and the Sacklers off the hook.
Prosecutors and the company reached a plea agreement, and Purdue Pharma paid a $634.5 million fine in 2007.