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At a protest in 2019, PAIN Sackler activists threw “blood money” across the courthouse steps in Westchester County, where Purdue Pharma’s first Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection hearing was held. (photo by Jasmine Weber/Hyperallergic)

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Photographer Nan Goldin is among the critics of the latest deal between members of the Sackler family, owners of opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, and 15 states formerly opposing the company’s bankruptcy reorganization plan. In November of 2020, the company pled guilty for its role in the opioid crisis. The latest update will prohibit Sacklers engaged in Purdue’s business dealings from lending their name to institutions over the next nine years until the family has paid off their debts.

The Sackler name is emblazoned on dozens of museums, hospitals, and other institutions across the United States and Europe. In 2017, Goldin founded PAIN Sackler, an advocacy organization shedding light on the Sacklers’ philanthropy in art and culture institutions. Last December, a series of leaked messages between members of the Sackler family revealed the family’s attempt to clear their names using cultural philanthropy.

In a conversation with Hyperallergic, Goldin lambasted the temporary ban, saying, “I find the whole thing appalling.”

“They’ll be walking away with no real consequences for them, but protecting thousands of their business friends and colleagues,” she added.

In recent years, in part due to PAIN’s advocacy and increasing public awareness about Purdue’s role in the opioid epidemic, several institutions have removed the Sackler name from their walls, including New York University and Dia Art Foundation. Others, like Tate, have publicly refused to accept future donations.

Goldin acknowledged that the 15 attorney generals who have so far agreed to the deal did so to access important, otherwise unobtainable documents. However, she clarified, “I’m furious about the naming rights.” This March, 23 states and the District of Columbia proposed an amendment to the bankruptcy restructuring plan that would protect institutions that choose to remove the Sackler name from their walls.

In the latest development in Purdue’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, announced last week, 15 states, including New York and Massachusetts, agreed to abandon their resistance to the restructuring if the company releases millions of documents from decades of business operations. The implicated family members will also be required to pay an additional $50 million from their personal wealth, an estimated $11 billion.

In a statement sent to Hyperallergic, the Raymond and Mortimer Sackler families said, “This resolution to the mediation is an important step toward providing substantial resources for people and communities in need. The Sackler family hopes these funds will help achieve that goal.”

In total, the Sacklers will be required to pay $4.5 billion over nine years. Under the latest deal, the Sacklers will be prohibited from naming institutions, including museums and hospitals, until their payments have been completed. In addition, they can have no further business dealings in opioid manufacturing. The family’s charitable trusts, worth an estimated $175 million, will be controlled by the National Opioid Abatement Trust.

“I fear that if money is involved, people won’t remember in nine years,” she added.

“I don’t want to believe that we didn’t succeed in tarnishing their legacy forever,” she concluded. “Hopefully there will be no institution or museum that will want their name again.”

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