July 3, 2019

O'Melveny's opioid "pipeline"

       The first in a series of opioid trials is being televised. (And for good reason. An article suggests that hundreds of thousands of people might have died because judges sealed evidence of pharmaceutical companies' wrongdoing.) The plaintiff in this trial is the State of Oklahoma, and they seek funds to mitigate and abate the crisis. The situation is dire, as one study estimates that opioids could kill half a million Americans in the next decade. 

       As I predicted, O'Melveny and their local counsel are the only attorneys billing hours to fight the state, as the other law firms negotiated settlements for their clients (Purdue and Teva.) One can only imagine how big O'Melveny's opioid pipeline must be. ("Pipeline" is O'Melveny's word for the number of hours they expect to bill. Here is a quote from their chair Brad Butwin, explaining how settlements reduced their 2017 pipeline and revenue.)

       By the way, if you're wondering how the few lawyers you see in court can bill many millions of dollars' worth of hours -- remember that O'Melveny's partners profit mainly by collecting a 300% mark-up on their junior attorneys' time, and there are likely dozens of attorneys billing behind the scenes. Also, keep in mind that O'Melveny may have planned for years of revenue from these cases and appeals. For example, O'Melveny billed time on the Exxon Valdez tragedy for over a decade, from the verdict in 1994, until the last appeal fourteen years later. They know how to milk a case.

       If you want to get a sense of the trial . . . Here is a video of a state employee in tears, because an O'Melveny attorney repeatedly tries to get her to say something she finds offensive - while refusing to let her show a Johnson & Johnson chart that maps out their plan to boost opioid sales. Or here is a Johnson & Johnson employee testifying about how the company incentivized its sales force to boost opioid prescriptions. I have only watched a small bit of the trial, but I suspect it's that sort of thing all day long.

       [Addendum: Here is O'Melveny's chair, Brad Butwin, boasting about the money his firm made on the Oklahoma opioid trial, as well as the money he expects to make on future opioid trials.]

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