Propublica has obtained a tranche of leaked internal communications between the Sackler family's Purdue Pharma, makers of the lethal opioid Oxycontin, and Dezenhall Resources, known as "The Pitbull of Public Relations," whose previous client roster includes Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, Exxon and other "beleaguered corporations," who masterminded a "blame the victim" strategy that apportioned responsibility for Oxycontin's mounting death toll on the people who became addicted to it -- not the Sacklers and Purdue, who falsified science, bribed doctors, and made billions from an epidemic that has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam War.
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Laura Poitras (previously) is the Academy Award-winning director of Citizenfour; she teamed up with the activist group Forensic Archicture (previously), whose incredible combination of data-visualization and documentary filmmaking have made them a potent force for holding war criminals and authoritarians to account: together, they created Triple Chaser, a short documentary that uses novel machine-learning techniques to document the ways in which tear gas and bullets made by companies belonging to "philanthropist" Warren Kanders have been used against civilians to suppress anti-authoritarian movements, and even to murder innocents, including children.
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The Sackler family got richer than the Rockefellers by marketing Oxycontin in ways that kickstarted the global opioid epidemic, whose body count continues to rise -- more than 200,000 dead in the US alone, which is more Americans than died in the Vietnam war.
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Philanthropy is theoretically an expression of generosity and fellow-feeling, but in an increasingly unequal world, charitable giving is a form of reputation laundering for super-rich oligarchs who build their massive fortunes on savage programs of exploitation and immiseration. The idea is that you can paper over the fact that deliberately starting the opioid crisis made you richer than the Rockefellers by having your name plastered all over the world's leading art galleries and museums.
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[Addendum 2/20/2020: Following a legal complaint, the Guardian removed its article of 14 June 2019 and apologised to Mrs Peel. We are happy to clarify that Yana Peel is not, and was not, personally involved in the operation or decisions of the regulated Novalpina Capital investment fund, which is managed by her husband Stephen Peel, and others. Mrs Peel was not involved in any decision-making relating to the fund’s acquisition of NSO. Mrs Peel only has a small, indirect and passive interest in the fund. She does not own, whether directly or indirectly, any Novalpina Capital entity or any stake in NSO Group.]
The NSO Group (previously
) is one of the world's most notorious cyber-arms dealers, linked to horrific human rights abuses, extrajudicial killing of human rights activists, and the dirtiest of dirty trick campaigns
against its critics (and their lawyers
) -- they're also accused of helping with the Saudi government's murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The company has changed hands several times
, and its ownership structure is predictably obscure. It's well understood, however, that a regulated investment fund, managed by a private equity firm called Novalpina, owns a controlling interest in the company; Novalpina's co-founder is Stephen Peel.
On Friday, The Guardian published an article revealing the NSO Group’s ownership structure
. Peel has no involvement in the operations or decisions of Novalpina, which is managed by her husband, Stephen Peel, and his partners.
The report set off a firestorm in the art and human rights world over the weekend, and by Monday, Peel had resigned as CEO, while issuing a statement condemning her critics, characterising their concerns as "a concerted lobbying campaign against my husband’s recent investment." Read the rest
Update: We have received a legal letter from Thomas A. Clare, of Clare Locke LLP, writing on behalf of the Sacklers expressing the family's concern that the image of a guillotine and the "guillotine watch" tag originally accompanying this post would be interpreted as a call to violence against the Sackler family, who have, per Mr Clare, received such threats. For avoidance of doubt, the use of the guillotine image and "guillotine watch" tag is intended as hyperbole and should not be interpreted as a call for violence against anyone, including any member of the Sackler family. I apologize unreservedly for any distress Sacklers experienced due to my hyperbole, or any concern this raised on their part that violence would be forthcoming. I also apologize for my imprecise use of the word "criminal" to refer to the Sacklers' activities; I have amended the relevant passage to read "alleged criminal," as there have been no criminal convictions stemming from Purdue or its owners' activities in relation to the opioid epidemic or the marketing of Oxycontin. -Cory
The Sacklers (previously) are mostly known around the world as "philanthropists," with their names adorning the wings of galleries, museums and institutes of higher learning; but the Sackler family fortune came from their pharmaceutical company, Purdue, whose deceptive marketing and underhanded regulatory evasion for their highly addictive drug Oxycontin has contributed to the prescription opioid overdose deaths of 200,000 Americans so far, with another 200,000 overdoses from heroin and other opioids likely related to the addiction epidemic created by Purdue and the Sacklers. Read the rest
The Sackler family (previously) is one of the richest in the world, and if you've heard of them, it's probably because their family name adorns so many art galleries, museums, and academic institutions around the world: but they way they got that money is less-well-known.
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