The law firm representing Purdue makes a controversial decision to hire ex-Department of Justice attorney involved in the case against the company.
Purdue Pharma’s King & Spalding law firm has hired former Department of Justice Civil Division’s acting assistant attorney, Ethan Davis, who, just months ago, was investigating allegations that the drug company had engaged in deceptive marketing practices. The disclosure was filed in court one week after Purdue pleaded guilty to three felony criminal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, violating federal anti-kickback laws and deceptive marketing opioids, as part of an $8.3 billion settlement. The settlement also resolves civil charges brought against the company and each member of the Sackler family involved on the Purdue Pharma board, either active or inactive, must pay $225 million in civil penalties.
The law firm indicated Davis would not be part of the team representing Purdue and is taking steps to ensure he remains uninvolved, including prohibiting him from speaking with those intimate with the matter. Davis will also not be able to “access, read, or review any documents, files, or materials in any form or medium” about the case, the firm announced. It “will distribute these restrictions to all personnel who are working on, or in the future are added to the team representing Purdue,” according to the court filing.
Davis has made clear, “My last day at the Justice Department was September 7. I stopped working on Purdue in March 2020 when my six-month-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer and I had to focus on her treatment.”
“The American Bar Association allows such an arrangement so long as the Purdue Pharma’s law firm follows ethical guidelines,” according to Stephen Gillers, a New York University law school professor. Rule 1.7 of its ethical code deals with conflicts of interest and includes a provision that “the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client.”
“For instance, Davis cannot participate in the Purdue case work unless the government gives its consent in writing. And the law firm can continue to represent the company and wall off, or ‘screen,’ Davis from any involvement in the case, if it “promptly” gives the government notice of the screen so the government has a chance to verify compliance,” Gillers said, adding, “A screen requires that Davis is locked out of all electronic and hardcopy Purdue files, that he is instructed not to discuss or reveal anything about Purdue matters with anyone at the firm, and that everyone in the firm is instructed not to share any information about Purdue matters with him.”
Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN), an advocacy group, is not so thrilled with the move. The group responded to the announcement, “The revolving door moves fast these days. The ink on the DOJ settlement wasn’t even dry when Davis’ move to King & Spalding was announced. He already did his work for Purdue and this is his reward. It’s laughable. Whether it’s by the book or not, their pattern tells a story where public officials that benefit Purdue in the long run are ultimately rewarded.”