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Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio is joined by Farron Cousins, Executive Editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine, to discuss the latest in the government’s shameful role in the opioid crisis and how former Attorney General Eric Holder made a sweetheart deal with opioid distributors.
Mike Papantonio: The opioid crisis is responsible for more than 43,000 deaths just in 2016. That’s an average of 115 opioid overdose deaths every day. According to the best estimates, opioids will kill another 52,000 Americans this year alone and up to half a million people in the next decade. Yet, the leadership of this country not only knew about the problem but they refused to take action. Out of all the stories of inaction, none of them compare to the fact that Eric Holder, yes Obama’s Attorney General, had all of the evidence he needed to prosecute the while collar thugs behind the opioid epidemic. Instead of holding them accountable, he let them go with one of the weakest slaps on the wrist in history.
Joining me to talk about this Eric Holder story and other stories that are out there this week is Farron Cousins. Farron, you and I both have covered this story over the last couple of years. It’s like a story that disappeared. Here, we have Eric Holder getting ready to run for president if you believe some of the noise that’s out there. This story hasn’t been told. The quick on this story is Eric Holder had McKesson, had everything he need on McKesson who is by the way the number one opioid distributor in America. DEA was saying to him it’s time to prosecute. We need a perp walk. Basically, they were talking about criminal action secretly something else is happening. What is it?
Farron Cousins: Well, first and foremost, we had this DEA team that had been working based out of Colorado for several years during the Obama Administration. It included nine field divisions working with 12 US Attorneys offices across 11 different states. Their task was find out how was responsible, what’s going on, and why McKesson let it happen. Finally, they finalized this report, they have everything. They say we’re going to fine them a billion dollars and more importantly, going to be the first ever actually criminal prosecution for these pharmaceutical executives. People pushing bad drugs, bad pills. They wanted to set an example.
Mike Papantonio: Which would’ve closed and I understand. This happened. This all started happening about seven years ago.
Farron Cousins: Right.
Mike Papantonio: What everybody misses is the height of the opioid crisis was taking place while Eric Holder was in charge. Now, this is the ugly, ugly side of this. I think most people miss this because they don’t know the connections. But, you had the attorney who working on behalf of McKesson, Hobart, Geoff Hobart. He is from the same law firm that Eric Holder is from. They work together up in Washington, DC. They both handled white color crime together. Geoff is right down the road, just right down the aisle from Eric Holder, while they’re working together. Eric Holder then gets his appointment to the Attorney General’s office and all of a sudden Hobart shows up as the lead lawyer for McKesson. The DEA is saying we got to deal with McKesson, need to shut them down.
All of a sudden, the two friends, the two pals, both of them working for the same law firm. Hobart is with McKesson. Right now as we speak, he’s representing McKesson. These two buddies work out a deal. What’s the deal?
Farron Cousins: Well, the deal is we’re not going to prosecute. We’re not going to take away their license, like the DEA agents said we had to do. Basically, cut that billion dollar fine down to a few, maybe 100 million, maybe 200, whatever it is. It’s not going to be a billion dollars and no prosecutions. We’re going to let them continue to distribute these pills all over the place including sending millions of pills to areas with only a few thousand residents.
Mike Papantonio: A few thousand? How about a few hundred? Kermit. Kermit, West Virginia, this town has a population of 400 people. McKesson was shipping in two million drugs over a period of two years. Two million drugs into little Kermit. Kermit, they’ve got a stockpile of drugs. You got 400 people. Here’s what McKesson knew. Here’s what Holder knew. Here’s what the attorney for McKesson knew. They knew that this glut, this extra glut that was supposed to be shipped into this little town of Kermis ended up in this big stockpile of pills. 400 people, some of them children. They’re not using millions and millions of pills like was being shipped in by McKesson. What ends up happening is this glut develops. It’s like a mountain of pills, then you have the oxy express that’s coming up from Florida all across the United States.
They’re pulling through there unloading as many pills as they can from this little town of Kermit and driving on to other parts of the country. That’s the kind of conduct that was happening not just in Kermit, West Virginia, it was happening all over the United States. They had them dead to right. They had all the information that they needed to know, millions of pills. One time, there was six million pills shipped into a town of 1,700 people. Six million pills, those pills came from McKesson. I don’t know what you say to an attorney general. The guy is in charge. Right?
Farron Cousins: Right. As you pointed out, Hobart was with Covington Burling and he started, I believe, in 2000 is when he came to Covington Burling. Eric Holder comes there in 2001. These guys worked together down the hall, same building, same floor. These are the … They see each other every day. Eight years this goes on and then Holder becomes Attorney General. Hobart still representing these people, they meet again, as you said, at this what we going to do about McKesson. Oh, hey.
Mike Papantonio: How about a sweetheart deal?
Farron Cousins: How are your kids doing? I used to buy their fundraising stuff in the break room.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. Here’s where it really gets ugly. You know where Holder is now?
Farron Cousins: It’s right back there.
Mike Papantonio: Back at Covington Burling. You got it.