Kaul declines to join Purdue Pharma lawsuit settlement

AP

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Wednesday he won't join a multistate settlement with Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners.

About half the states and thousands of local governments reached a tentative deal Wednesday with Purdue Pharma over its role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic. Sources with direct knowledge of the talks say Purdue Pharma will pay up to $12 billion. The agreement also calls for the Sackler family, which owns the company, to give up control.

The states and local governments allege that Purdue Pharma downplayed the addiction risks of Oxycontin, an opioid pain medication, contributing to an epidemic of addiction. Kaul's lawsuit alleges Richard Sackler, the company's former vice president, approved the strategy.

But roughly half the states haven't agreed to the settlement, including Wisconsin. Kaul, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday that the Sackler family has made billions from opioid sales and the company's settlement position doesn't achieve justice. Kaul spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said the attorney general will continue to pursue Wisconsin's case.

Kaul is locked in a stalemate with Republican legislators over legal settlements. The GOP passed a law during a lame-duck session in December that requires Kaul to get permission from the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee before settling any lawsuits.

But Kaul has refused to discuss any lawsuits with the committee until its members sign non-disclosure agreements, saying confidentiality is a crucial element in settlements. Committee Republicans say such agreements aren't necessary, resulting in a standoff. State Department of Justice records indicate at least 16 cases with millions of dollars at stake are currently in limbo as a result.

Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren, the committee's co-chairs, said in a statement Wednesday that they hope reporters signed non-disclosure agreements with Kaul since he gave them confidential information about the Purdue Pharma settlement that he wouldn't share with the committee.

"It's clear the attorney general did not need signed secrecy agreements to share case information," they said. "The attorney general should stop playing games, follow the law, and work with the Joint Committee on Finance."

Drummond said Kaul could speak about the Purdue Pharma settlement to the media because other sources had already made it public. She called the co-chairs' remarks "disingenuous."

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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