Rejection, Redaction, Redirection: Jono Coles and Harrison Smith's The Deposition

In 2001, New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum completed construction of its Sackler Center for Arts Education. The expansive new wing, home to two theaters, two media labs, a reading room, and a gallery, was the product of a $7 million gift by the Mortimer D. Sackler family.1,2 Following the wing’s construction, the Sacklers gave approximately $2 million in additional donations. These came primarily through a series of $100,000 annual contributions that directly coincided with the tenure of Mortimer D. A. Sackler (Mortimer D.’s son) on the museum’s board between 2003 and 2018.3

There is a reason the Sackler name might look familiar: the family owns a pharmaceutical company called Purdue Pharma, which developed and marketed the infamous painkiller OxyContin. The drug is named for its continuous release of oxycodone, a potent and highly addictive pain-killing derivative of the opium poppy. In the years following OxyContin’s 1995 U.S. release, Purdue engaged in a number of deceptive direct-to-physician marketing strategies to misrepresent the opioid as a non-addictive and appropriate treatment for pain symptoms of many kinds.4 These campaigns led doctors to recklessly over-prescribe OxyContin, fueling what is now known as the “opioid epidemic.” Between 1999 and 2017, annual opioid-related deaths in America rose from approximately 6,400 to more than 47,000.5

Since the early 2000s, writers, doctors, and opioid survivors alike have been vocal in framing members of the Sackler family as perpetrators of the crisis for their role in the production of OxyContin.6 Still, until payment of a relatively negligible fine in 2020, the family had successfully avoided any legal accountablity. However the same cannot be said for Purdue.7,8

In 2007, Purdue Pharma’s parent company and three senior company officials pleaded guilty to criminally misbranding OxyContin. The collective $634.5 million in fines paid by these defendants is a minute fraction of the approximate $32 billion in profits that OxyContin generated for Purdue—around two thirds of the company’s total earnings since the drug was developed.9 From these profits, the Sacklers have benefited generously: between 2007 and early 2019, the family earned roughly $10.7 billion from ownership of Purdue Pharma.10,11,12

By using a portion of these profits to make philanthropic donations, members of the Sackler family mired a number of renowned art institutions in their ethical transgressions. In early 2019, highly publicized protests led by activist group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) brought the Sackler family’s relationship with the Guggenheim museum into the public eye.13 In response, the Guggenheim released a brief statement later that year which detailed previous gifts the museum received from the Sacklers and announced it would no longer accept funding from the family. The statement did not explain the institution's rationale or explicitly acknowledge the opioid crisis. Since then, the Guggenheim has remained silent on the topic.

It was this controversy that inspired The Deposition (2020), a video work by artists Jono Coles and Harrison Smith. The piece was intended as the artists’ contribution to the inaugural Guggenheim Summer Practicum, a virtual seminar organized by the Guggenheim’s Department of Education and Public Engagement (housed in the Sackler Center for Arts Education) to supplant the institution’s regular in-person programming during the COVID pandemic.14

The work takes as its primary inspiration Dr. Richard Sackler’s 2015 deposition from the legal case Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Purdue Pharma, L.P, the only public commentary by Richard Sackler on the opioid crisis. (This statement did not become public without conflict: the deposition was released in 2019 only after a three-year legal battle between the healthcare news organization STAT and Purdue Pharma.15) In the original 28 minute and 10 second video, Sackler answers questions posed by an attorney as sworn testimony for the Kentucky case. In Coles and Smith’s reinterpretation, the mundane office setting and exact length of the video are carefully preserved. Sackler’s statement, however, is not. Unlike the real Richard Sackler, who does little to expand upon the 40 exhibits discussed in the original deposition, the fictionalized Sackler (played by a frank and impassive Coles) spends the entire video detailing the history of the relationships between the Guggenheim museum, the Sackler Family, and Purdue Pharma, focusing on the OxyContin misinformation campaign and the subsequent national rise in opioid overprescription, overuse, misuse, and OxyContin-related deaths.




A still from The Deposition (2020, left) alongside a still from the 2015 deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler (right).16


Though Coles’ rangy body reveals him to be an imposter, the artists have superimposed Sackler’s face onto Coles’ head to make it appear as though Sackler himself delivers the speech. This feat is accomplished with “deepfake” technology. “By collecting facial data from frames in the deposition source video and our initial takes,” Coles writes, “deepfake algorithms identified similar expressions between my performance and the original Sackler. Using this data, each of my expressions is substituted out for its Sackler analog, frame by frame, creating a hybrid character that is (and is not) both Sackler and myself.” The same technology has been used by comedians to produce modified videos of politicians,17 and by members of the user-moderated discussion board Reddit to fabricate adult videos of famous actresses,18,19,20 These media use deepfake as a tool for synthesis, combining two pieces of reality to portray a damaging falsehood. In the case of The Deposition, deepfake’s common applications and consequences are inverted. Rather than building a harmful fiction from multiple realities, The Deposition attempts to use deepfake technology to make legible an entangled reality, and use that centralized representation as a means by which to envision a more sustainable world.

Such projective envisioning—imagining a sustainable future—was the stated goal of the Inaugural Guggenheim Practicum, and was fully internalized by the artists. Asked about his objective in producing the work, Smith cited the language of proposal first delivered to Guggenheim Practicum mentors. “The work originally aimed to ‘envision what satisfactory verbal accountability might look like in the modern age.’ We did not intend to speculate on how Sackler might feel, but instead to picture what it would look like for billionaire beneficiaries to acknowledge the legally-recognized consequences of their companies’ actions.”21

In this regard, however, Coles and Smith have failed. The Deposition does nothing to present a clear picture of such “acknowledgement.” Coles’ Sackler never explicitly identifies his actions (or those of Purdue) as the direct cause of the startling opioid use statistics he recites, falling far short of true accountability. Yet the video, its institutional context and its intra-institutional reception, reveals a great deal about the Guggenheim’s stance on its financially-communicated, ethical complicity with the Sacklers. This revelation, however, unfolds slowly for the viewer, beginning with a critique of Richard Sackler realized via Coles and Smith’s commitment to presenting demonstrable facts rather than fabricated regret.

By relying on publicly available facts, The Deposition’s Sackler implicitly presents a clear understanding of Purdue’s dealings and, through its discussion of Purdue, the Sackler family’s responsibility for the public health crisis. By contrast, in the 2015 deposition recording, Richard Sackler appears to be either woefully ignorant of Purdue’s operations, or intentionally uncooperative: throughout the video, he responds to questions posed by attorney Tyler S. Thompson with the phrase “I don’t know” more than 100 times.22 This discontinuity sharply underscores the depth of the real Richard Sackler’s evasion, ultimately achieving a more potent critique of Sackler than a fictionalized apology ever could. In these respects, The Deposition begins to inhabit multiple interpretations of its title—converting the legal deposition into a stage on which the artists’ targeted critique works to depose Sackler, politically.

The video’s lack of subjective statements—its strict adherence to fact—also reduces the artists’ legal liability. Though there is little precedent for criminal or civil litigation against producers of deepfake media, the use of an individual’s name and likeness without consent potentially constitutes a violation of one’s right to privacy. Coles and Smith claim to have considered the risk of incurring a privacy violation lawsuit, but confidently cite the video’s creative nature as a defense in such an event. Similarly, the artists assert that the satirical nature of the work and their omission of subjective statements would likely protect them from defamation charges.

However, the legal gray area occupied by The Deposition posed logistical issues that required careful attention from the practicum mentors. Coles and Smith noted that throughout the practicum “…[the mentors] worked hard to accommodate, support, and develop The Deposition, agreeing to consult with the museum’s legal counsel on our behalf and frequently taking the time to meet with us to discuss our creative options.” But though they supported the work, administrators noted that for the institution, the Sackler’s historic involvement with the Guggenheim was still a sensitive topic at the time of the proposal. Following these discussions, it eventually became clear that the video could not be completed within the practicum: administrators communicated that the amount of time required by the Guggenheims’ legal department to vet the work was incompatible with the practicum schedule, and thus the project could not be pursued. Additionally, the museum was not in a financial position to endure potential litigation against the Sacklers. If produced within the practicum, the piece would have been the first work published by the Guggenheim explicitly connecting the institution to the opioid epidemic.

For Coles and Smith, the Guggenheim’s logistical restrictions were unfortunate but unavoidable. But they also observed that the museum’s financial concerns notably reflected the role wealth plays in the Sackler’s continued evasion of legal accountability. In an email to the author, Smith wrote:

Having informally consulted with an attorney who specializes in first amendment law, we’re confident that the work doesn’t constitute a clear violation of Sackler’s privacy rights. For me, what the Guggenheim’s financial restrictions lay bare is the unfortunate influence monetary resources have on the ability of individuals to exercise their rights. Given that Sackler would be the plaintiff in a privacy rights case, I find it painfully ironic that money and not the law is a primary impediment to our successful dissemination of this work.

The Sacklers’ access to high quality, expensive legal defense has certainly played a key role in creating a wall of apparent legal impunity—and protecting their commercial endeavors. Richard Sackler’s personal lawyer, Mary Jo White, is a former New York-based U.S. attorney and served as Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission between 2013 and 2017,23 while legal heavyweight and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani played a crucial role in securing Purdue’s right to continue marketing OxyContin in the 2007 criminal case.24 Notably, in The Deposition, Coles and Smith remove all attorneys present at the 2015 deposition (including the four that represented Purdue Pharma), rendering this legal shield symbolically absent.

Instead, The Deposition’s imagined Sackler gives his statement alone, of his own volition, stripping the video of its legal context to focus instead on moral grounds. For the first ten minutes of The Deposition, Coles’ Sackler essentially functions as a corporate historian by recounting his family’s long and complicated involvement in the drug marketing industry, all of which is public knowledge. The majority of this introductory section is devoted to the acquisition of Purdue Pharma in 1952 by Raymond Sackler (1920-2017), Mortimer Sackler (1916-2010), and Arthur Sackler (1913-1987), and the brothers’ systematic use of misinformation and vertical integration strategies to ensure that their drugs produced maximal potential profits.25 Only after discussing the first generation of the Sacklers’ engagement with Purdue does The Deposition’s narrative arrive at the adoption of opioids into their product inventory: initially with the moderately successful slow-release morphine drug MS Contin, and later OxyContin.26,27 Here, Coles’ imaginary Richard Sackler notably distances himself from the real Sackler. He delivers sobering facts about the company’s targeted marketing to doctors with records of high opioid prescription rates,28 the 8-12 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain who develop substance use disorder,29 and the harm social stigma wrecks on opioid victims and their families.30 But after these revalations, Coles’ Sackler undergoes a dissociative shift to mechanically quote his own private correspondence (which were publicly released in the State of Massachusetts’ lawsuit filed against Purdue last year), stating: “In 2001, I wrote in an email, ‘We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.’”31 The dissonance between the fictional Sackler’s demonstrated understanding of how Purdue marketing tactics affected innocent lives and his dictation of the real Sackler's emails condemning the same individuals is jarring—a juxtaposition not dissimilar from the subtle, recurring deepfake glitches that reveal Coles’ face underneath the superimposed Sackler’s. Together, these gestures create a distance (between Sackler and Coles, the viewer and the speaker, the video and reality) that seems to point back towards Sackler’s own removal from those he speaks about—people with addiction—and begins to reorient the viewer towards these individuals.

This distance is exacerbated by the gravity of the statements made by Coles’ Sackler, and the manner in which they are read. Coles speaks with an even tone and factual demeanor which—when adopted by Sackler, who is framed as a perpetrator of the very actions he recounts—come across to the viewer as disingenuous stoicism. At minute 16, Coles-as-Sackler begins to detail the statistics behind Purdue Pharma’s misrepresentation of OxyContin addiction rates, stating that Purdue Pharma advertised risk of addiction as one percent32 when in reality patients misuse opioids at a rate between eight and twelve percent.33 The video’s Sackler then describes the sources of Purdue’s statistics, revealing that the one percent figure was derived from a paper that grossly misinterpreted the results of a medical letter and a research paper published in the 1980’s.34 This intentional understatement of OxyContin’s risks of addiction in Purdue’s marketing strategies was central to the company’s decision to plead guilty to criminal misbranding with intent to defraud and mislead in 2007.35 However, because The Deposition’s Sackler never establishes causation between himself and these actions, he still does not take direct responsibility.

Although the quantity of historical information divulged by the fictional Sackler is shocking, all is a matter of public record—a point that Coles and Smith emphasize by including thorough, time-stamped citations in the video’s description. (Sources include a variety of news media and popular books, including Pain Killer, written by New York Times journalist Barry Meier.) This element, which derives from the same gesture used to critique Sackler, constitutes the most potent critique of the Guggenheim: in their rigorous citation of the public record, the artists demonstrate that the museum’s failure to address the ethical dilemma posed by their benefactor’s dealing is by no means a result of uncertainty surrounding the Sackler family’s misdeeds. Instead, the Guggenheim’s silence is the product of institutional reticence to acknowledge the Sacklers’ publicly acknowledged role in the opioid epidemic, a silence conveniently conserved by the Guggenheim’s refusal to publish The Deposition.

The Guggenheim's response to calls for accountability is most notably characterized by discretion. Mortimer D. A. Sackler’s name was covertly removed from public listings of the museum’s board in early 2019,36,37 and a brief statement later that year announced the museum’s refusal to accept any further funds from the family. These surreptitious gestures came shortly after the Whitney Museum was forced to address similar public criticism over the presence of Warren Kanders on their board. Kanders is the owner of Safariland, a company from which the U.S. Border Patrol and the Israeli Defence Force, among others, purchase tear gas and similar crowd control weapons for use against public, peaceful protests.38 But unlike at the Guggenheim, Whitney museum staff and artists slated to participate in the museum’s 2019 biennial responded swiftly to the Kanders’ affiliation; numerous artists withdrew from the exhibition and dozens of staffers publicly called for accountability, eliciting a public response form the museum’s director, Adam Weinberg.39,40 The subsequent messy, but constructive response by the Whitney resulted in Kanders’ resignation shortly thereafter.

Ggiven the Guggenheim’s apparent prioritization of optics over meaningful response, it takes little imagination to see the Guggenheim’s response to their Sackler connection as directly informed by the Whitney’s publicity crisis. But when considering the Whitney’s crisis, that discretion should be valued is the wrong conclusion to draw. The publicity around Kanders’ reckoning allowed the museum to confront the ethics of Safariland with those to whom the museum should be most accountable—its constituent staff and the general public.41 By quietly cutting ties with the Sackler family and refusing to acknowledge its connection to Purdue Pharma or the opioid epidemic via its former benefactors, the Guggenheim achieves the exact opposite—continued service of the Sacklers’ interests at the direct cost of constructive dialogue, accountability, and eventually, justice.

In light of these facts, The Deposition positions the Guggenheim as an instrument used by the Sackler family to curate their own public perception. The Sacklers have leveraged their profits from OxyContin to purchase a place for their name on the museum, and have protected that place with those same profits, which position them as legally impervious to the defenses of the Guggenheim and its associated artists in a battle over anti-Sackler messaging. Similarly, the Sacklers leverage Purdue Pharma’s status as a corporation to escape legal accountability.42 The Deposition subverts these narratives with its use of deepfake; Coles appears as a visual conflation of himself (a professional affiliate of the Guggenheim) and Richard Sackler, who through his professional, familial, and financial affiliations represents the Guggenheim and Purdue Pharma.

Coles’ familial background further complicates this multi-identity, colliding with his position in the practicum from a dramatically opposite angle: his mother Jennifer Matesa—a writer and licensed psychotherapist—suffered from opioid use disorder for more than a decade, using prescribed pharmaceutical opioids including OxyContin and Fentanyl. While being prescribed OxyContin in 2002, Matesa was also reporting on The Joint Commission’s new pain assessment standards, which contributed to a change in perceptions among doctors regarding the prescription of opiates for non-malignant pain.43 Matesa has since published two books about recovery from substance use disorder after entering long-term recovery in 2008. During an interview with the authors, Matesa had the following to say about her recovery:

I was still in active addiction in 2007 when Purdue copped to their culpability in what was then turning out to be the Great American Opioid Epidemic—and the very next year I was able to begin recovery. A great part of what helped me heal was the public shifting of blame and responsibility for opioid addiction away from many sick individuals onto a corporation that employed malevolent marketing practices, and which was owned by a family ruled by greed.

Coles noted this shift of guilt is “the primary socially restorative mechanism of The Deposition," before going on to state, "This is why building networks of accountability—and deconstructing the stigmatized public perception of substance use disorder—are necessary actions.” By providing a detailed account of wrongdoing through this layered multi-identity, Coles and Smith associate both the Sacklers and the Guggenheim with the publicly acknowledged acts which are notably not a part of their self-curated public image, ultimately underscoring the constructive potential of simple yet complete truths.

This is a primary success of The Deposition. Although the information presented in the video is public knowledge, it has not previously been aggregated in this volume with a direct focus on the associations between Purdue, the Sacklers, and the Guggenheim. By comprehensively exposing these ties within the context of Purdue’s corrupt history, The Deposition aims to rearrange the viewer’s perception of where responsibility for the opioid epidemic should be placed, and reveal the failure of entities like the Guggenheim to mobilize their institutional power to hold their culpable benefactors accountable, or to repair the harms of their affiliates directly. In this way, the piece attempts to build the foundations of real justice.

Had it been published, The Deposition could have recursively done for the Guggenheim what it indicts the Sacklers for failing to do: initiate a public dialogue around accountability. Rather than functioning as a formal statement on behalf of the Guggenheim, the work would begin to construct a platform of accountability for the museum intra-institutionally—embodying the external criticism directed at the Guggenheim within the museum itself. As the first Guggenheim artwork to directly address its connection to Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, and the opioid epidemic, The Deposition could have provided the necessary (yet necessarily incomplete) first step on behalf of the institution towards a true, transparent accountability: one that would later entail, if done according to the carefully considered demands of P.A.I.N., removal of the Sackler name from the educational wing. Though such symbolic gestures carry significant power, this too would be incomplete if not accompanied by monetary accountability.44 Just as P.A.I.N calls for a redistribution of Purdue’s OxyContin profits towards efforts and organizations aimed at directly aiding those individuals who have been made collateral in the Sackler family’s pursuit of wealth and cultural prestige, so too must the institutions benefiting from the Sacklers’ dirty money.45 Without such material reparation, institutions like the Guggenheim stand to function as little more than alchemical operations, covertly converting OxyContin money into social capital for the Sackler family.

Unfortunately, The Deposition has little institutionally constructive potential outside of the Guggenheim, where it becomes one of many external voices devoid of institutional credibility. In this role, The Deposition does little more than synthesize existing information, no matter the context of its aggregation. Whereas its release would build a platform for further work to be done, it is hard not to see the absence of The Deposition as a missed opportunity for the Guggenheim.

For the institution, thoughtful engagement in such critical, self-reflexive examination of these ties would be most effortless if initiated by publication of creative projects like The Deposition. This kind of outsourced accounting, however, would constitute the bare minimum level of accountability. Though visual artwork can begin the process of narrative accounting, the museum itself must undertake the task of explicit, public, and vocal acknowledgement to give such dialogues meaning. Only through transparent, honest dialogue and an attendant mobilization of the Guggenheim’s institutional resources toward reparative ends can the museum begin to build a more sustainable future.


Notes

1 Jasmine Weber, “Guggenheim Museum ‘Does Not Plan to Accept Any Gifts’ from the Sackler Family.” Hyperallergic, March 22, 2019.

2 “Education Facilities.” Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Accessed September 28, 2020.

3 Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service spurces 1-15.

4 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House), 2018. Medical opioids had historically been used sparingly by physicians to treat pain for terminal illnesses, whereas OxyContin was marketed as a solution to a range of chronic non-malignant pain symptoms. Standard medical practice in the US changed to allow common prescription of opioids in the early 2000s, soon after the release of OxyContin. These changes, advocated for by a consortium of pharmaceutical companies and pro-opioid lobbyists alike, are inextricably linked to the drug’s success.

5 Holly Hedegaard, Arialdi M. Miniño, and Margaret Warner, “Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2018.” National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, no. 356 (January 2020).

6 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic, 2018.

7 United States v. The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., et al., 495 F. Supp. 2d 569 (W.D. Va. 2007).

8 David Armstrong, “Purdue’s Sackler embraced plan to conceal OxyContin’s strength from doctors, sealed deposition shows.” STAT News, February 21, 2019. In 2007 Purdue Pharma’s parent company Purdue Frederick, its former medical director Dr. Paul D. Goldheim, its top lawyer Howard R. Udell, and its former CEO Michael Friedman pleaded guilty to criminal misbranding of OxyContin. The Purdue Frederick Company paid $600 million in fines. Goldheim, Udell, and Friedman paid $34.5 million, collectively. To determine Purdue’s response to the criminal case, the company’s Sackler-controlled board voted to have Goldheim, Udell, and Friedman plead guilty. The same board voted against requiring any Sackler family member to acknowledge guilt in the criminal misbranding campaign. Though email transcripts reveal Richard Sackler to have had an active role in the decision to mislead physicians about the safety of OxyContin, no Sackler has yet been legally identified as a guilty party. For more information on the 2007 case, see Barry Meier’s “In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay $600 Million.” (The New York Times, May 10, 2007).

9 Patrick Radden Keefe, “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain,” The New Yorker, October 30, 2017. This number does not include profits from the sale of OxyContin by Mundipharma, a pharmaceutical company owned by the Sacklers that operates internationally.

10 Barry Meier. “In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay $600 Million.” The New York Times, May 10, 2007.

11 Hopkins, Jared S., and Andrew Scurria. “Sacklers Received as Much as $13 Billion in Profits From Purdue Pharma.” The Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2019.

12 “Sackler Family gets huge payout after Purdue admitted role in opioid crisis.” Deutsche Welle, December 17, 2019.

13 Jasmine Weber, “Guggenheim Museum ‘Does Not Plan to Accept Any Gifts’ from the Sackler Family,” Hyperallergic, March 22, 2019.

14 The Guggenheim Summer Practicum was organized by employees of the Guggenheim Museum’s education department, which is housed in the Sackler Center for Arts Education. With funds provided by an anonymous donor, the museum awarded practicum participants a $1,000 stipend. Though the identity of this donor is unknown to the public and practicum participants alike, and the practicum was planned and executed remotely in accordance with quarantine safety measures (outside the Sackler Center), affiliation with the practicum necessarily entangles each student in the network of ethical complicitly surrounding the Sackler’s $7 million donation to the Guggenheim for the construction of the museum’s art education wing.

15 David Armstrong, “Watch Richard Sackler Deny His Family’s Role in the Opioid Crisis,” Propublica.

16 These images have been blurred in accordance with a request made by the Guggenheim Museum and thus do not accurately reflect the unblurred original videos.

17 David Mack, “This PSA About Fake News from Barack Obama Is Not What It Appears,” BuzzFeed News, April 17, 2018.

18 Dave Lee, “Deepfake porn has serious consequences,” BBC News, February 3, 2018.

19 Angela Chen, “Forget fake news––nearly all deepfakes are being made for porn,” MIT Technology Review, October 7, 2019.

20 The Deposition is not the first instance of deepfake technology being used by an artist. In 2019, Bill Posters used the technology to impersonate various celebrities while delivering speeches lauding surveillance technology in his work “Big Data.” For more on Bill Posters and his “Big Data” project, see http://billposters.ch/bio/.

21 Jono Coles and Harrison Smith, “Sackler Pitch Notes (for Amy),” (privately shared document), August 19, 2020.

22 Lauren I. Gootee, “Commonwealth of Kentucky, ex rel. v Purdue Pharma L.P., et al.: Video Deposition for the Plaintiff. Deponent: Richard Sackler,” Coulter Reporting LLC, August 28, 2015.

23 Alison Frankel, “Purdue’s Sackler family wants global opioids settlement: Sackler lawyer Mary Jo White,” Reuters, April 22, 2019.

24 Chris McGreal, “Rudy Giuliani won deal for OxyContin maker to continue sales of drug behind opioid deaths,” The Guardian, May 22, 2018. The Sacklers’ and Purdue’s exploitation of the “revolving door” between the public and private sectors extends beyond the court. In the early stages of OxyContin marketing, Purdue paid consultants $35,000 to privately meet with Federal Drug Administration (FDA) representatives. In 2001, the FDA modified the label of OxyContin to allow a broader application of the drug without medically verifying the safety of such an expansion. Two of the FDA officials involved in this decision later left the agency to assume high-paying positions at Purdue. For more information, see “Did the FDA Ignite the Opioid Epidemic?” on 60 Minutes, (originally aired February 24, 2019, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/opioid-epidemic-did-the-fda-ignite-the-crisis-60-minutes/).

25 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House), 2018. Arthur Sackler (the only brother to have divested from Purdue Pharma before the development and release of OxyContin) has been credited with pioneering the use of commercial advertising strategies to directly market drugs to physicians; corrupt business practices that predate and foreshadow Purdue’s illegal marketing of OxyContin. Sackler was professionally affiliated with a number of drug production companies, medical publications, and hospitals, connections he used to more effectively reach physicians and market pharmaceuticals. Even at this early stage in the family’s dealing, misinformation was practiced: Arthur Sackler is reported to have blatantly fabricated the identities of physicians whose names he cited as endorsers of his company’s pharmaceuticals. His success in marketing pharmaceuticals earned him a position in the Pharmaceutical Marketing Hall of Fame in 1997. For more or Arthur Sackler, see David Armstrong’s “The Family Trying to Escape Blame for the Opioid Crisis” (The Atlantic, published April 10, 2018), and Barry Meier’s 2018 book Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House).

26 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House), 2018.

27 Art Van Zee, “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy,” American Journal of Public Health 99, no 2 (February 2009): 221-227.

28 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House), 2018.

29 National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Opioid Overdose Crisis,” National Institutes of Health, May 17, 2020.

30 Emily Reddy, Anne Danahy, and Min Xhan, "Stigma," Overcoming an Epidemic: Opioids in Pennsylvania (podcast), August 21, 2019.

31 Andrew Joseph, “‘A blizzard of prescriptions’: Documents reveal new details about Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin,” STAT News, January 15, 2019.

32 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House), 2018.

33 National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” National Institutes of Health, May 17, 2020.

34 Barry Meier, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic (New York: Penguin Random House), 2018.

35 Barry Meier, “In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay $600 Million,” The New York Times, May 10, 2007.

36 “Foundation,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, January 13, 2019. Accessed via Internet Archive September 28, 2020.

37 “Foundation,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, February 26, 2019. Accessed via Internet Archive September 28, 2020.

38 Deniz Çam, “Meet The Safariland Multimillionaire Getting Rich Off Tear Gas and More In The Defense Industry,” Forbes, December 6, 2018.

39 Caroline Goldstein, “The Whitney ‘Cannot Right All the Ills of an Unjust World’: Adam Weinberg Responds to Staff Protests Over a Board Member,” ArtNews, December 3, 2018.

40 Zachary Small, “Eight Artists Withdraw Their Work From 2019 Whitney Biennial,” Hyperallergic, July 20, 2019.

41 It should be noted that the Whitney is far from fully resolving their relationship to Kanders and Safariland. The museum has received over $10 million dollars in donations from the Kanders family, and retains the Kanders name on an interior stairway. For more on the Whitney, see “Warren Kanders Quits Whitney Board After Tear Gas Protests” by Robin Pogrebin and Elizabeth A. Harris for the New York Times (July 25, 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/arts/whitney-warren-kanders-resigns.html)

42 Christopher Rowland, “The Sackler family is trying to shield billions in opioid profits through Purdue Pharma bankruptcy, states say,” The Washington Post, Oct 4, 2019. In September of 2019, Purdue successfully petitioned for a temporary halt on all cases in which the Sacklers are named as defendants in order to expedite the company's proposed multibillion dollar settlement. Thus, until Purdue’s current bankruptcy filing is ruled upon, no cases directly involving the Sacklers can proceed. If Purdue is legally designated as bankrupt and resolves its pending cases in a class-action settlement, an automatic stay on litigation would be granted to Purdue and the Sackler family, barring any further legal action against them. This would provide the Sacklers with complete and permanent legal protection from future charges related to their role in the illegal mis-marketing of OxyContin (and secure their ownership of the collective $9 billion they have taken out, in cash, from Purude's profits).

43 Jennifer Matesa, “Addicts are not low-lifes, they are people like you and me and your next-door neighbor,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 19, 2012.

44 On page 13 the book The Self-Restraining State: Power and Accountability in New Democracies, Andreas Schedler notes that “[In] its semantic root, the notion of accountability, is nicely ambivalent: it evokes narrative accounts as well as bookkeeping.” Through this framework, the necessity of both narrative (symbolic, discourse-based) and bookkeeping-based (ethically-informed channeling of fiscal resources) accountability becomes plainly clear.

45 “Mission Statement,” P.A.I.N., Accessed September 24, 2020. An example of this concrete, reparative action on an institutional scale actually exists: In December of 2019, Tufts University removed all Sackler names from their institution and allocated $3 million towards an endowment that will fund substance use disorder prevention initiatives, treatment programs, and to raise awareness of the opioid crisis via the institution’s relationship to the Sackler family. For more on Tufts’ decision, see Andrew Joseph’s “Tufts will scour Sackler name from its medical campus, in rebuff of family that controls Purdue Pharma,” from December 5, 2019, (https://www.statnews.com/2019/12/05/tufts-will-scour-sackler-name-from-its-medical-campus/).