Tony Nash joins Rahul Tandon at the BBC for Business Matters podcast where they discussed the opioid sales and crisis in the United States as the maker of OxyContin painkiller, Purdue Pharma, agreed on a plea bargain and an $8 billion settlement. They also discussed Tesla’s rise in the market, the different protests in the world like in Hong Kong, Thailand, and the US, social gatherings in the COVID era with hockey, football, the Indian festival called Durga Puja, and dogs VS cats.
This podcast was published on October 22, 2020 and the original source can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172x18zvp5cvgn
BBC Business Matters Description:
The maker of OxyContin painkillers has reached an $8.3bn settlement and agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a probe of its role in fuelling America’s opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma will admit to enabling the supply of drugs “without legitimate medical purpose”. The deal with US Department of Justice resolves some of the most serious claims against the firm. But it still faces thousands of cases brought by states and families. We hear from Pete Jackson, who got involved in advocacy after losing his daughter in 2006. He thinks that only jail time for those responsible can bring any sense of justice to bereaved families.
Also in the programme, Kolkata in India is celebrating the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. Millions of people normally go to temporary temples or pandals that are set up as the city shuts down for four days, and it’s an important part of the city’s economy. But as the BBC’s Rahul Tandon reports, it’s now at the centre of a court battle over striking a balance between saving the economy and saving lives.
Plus – we discuss Tesla’s tremendous results as well as football finance. Premier League football club Manchester United registered a $30m loss in the pandemic. Kieran Maguire wrote The Price of Football and is a lecturer in sports finance at Liverpool University, and tells us what’s behind the loss. Meanwhile, there is talk of Manchester United being one of the clubs in a proposed new European Super League. Tom Greatrex of the English Football Supporters Association is a member of the FA Council, which oversees the game in England, and gives us his reaction to the idea.
With guests Jodi Schneider in Hong Kong and Tony Nash in Houston
RT: Tony, this is an important settlement, isn’t it? Because the scale of the opioid crisis in the United States is huge.
TN: Yeah, it’s terrible because Purdue was pushing doctors to prescribe this medicine to people knowing that it was addictive. So there is culpability through the company and into the shareholders. They need to do what’s called piercing the corporate veil. They need to go to the investors behind it, which is the Sackler family. And they are culpable because, as your guest said, they were pulling the strings. So there has to be accountability. Otherwise, why have a legal system? Why have any consumer protections?
RT: You say that the fact that they are culpable, obviously, they would deny that. But as we heard from the father there who lost his daughter, he wants to see further justice. Do you think that’s going to happen? And if that is the timing of this settlement significant coming before the elections? Because we know President Trump had said that he wanted to deal with the opioid crisis. Are you surprised that when this judgment has been now reached, this settlement has been reached?
TN: I really don’t know. It may be meaningful. I really haven’t thought about that. But you’re right. President Trump really has focused on the opioid epidemic and partly because a lot of his voters are people who’ve been affected by it. For them to see some sort of accountability is critically important. But do I think there will be? I think almost everybody is skeptical that there will actually be accountability for anybody who’s a billionaire. Like nobody who’s a billionaire pays for anything. So in America, it doesn’t happen. So until the Sangar family is bankrupt, I don’t think most Americans will be happy.
RT: Do you think the opioid crisis has been overshadowed, obviously, this year because of the coronavirus that to some extent people have forgotten about it?
TN: It hasn’t necessarily played high within media, but I think those families who are affected, they’re affected by it every day of the week. So I don’t think on a personal level it’s disappeared. But certainly in terms of kind of column space and air time, it’s disappeared.
RT: As Jodi said, it’s not just Hong Kong. It’s not just Thailand. We’ve seen these huge protests in the US. Black Lives Matter protests taking place there as well. Some thought the year of the protests was over. Clearly not.
TN: Thailand is a different case because this is a continuation of probably 20 years of protests in Thailand, going back to Thaksin, coming to power. And when you think about Thailand presently, General Pride has been in power for years. He wasn’t elected. He was installed by the monarchy and by the military to rule over Thailand. So you have a Thai population that’s become accustomed to democracy, who is outspoken enough to say we actually want democracy back. And it’s different. Hong Kong is similar, but it hasn’t quite gone as far as Thailand. The CCP hasn’t necessarily installed generals overseeing Hong Kong yet, but Thais want their democracy back.
RT: Elon Musk is somebody of really out of the news. But it is one of the business stories of this year that the rise and rise of Tesla.
TN: Tesla now trades at about 1,100 times earnings, which is incredible. Maybe a 30 times earnings, but not one thousand one at a time. What’s really interesting to note is Tesla’s chief accounting officer just filed an insider sales record to sell thousands of shares. I think it’s 50 some thousand shares. It’s interesting that their chief accounting officer is actually selling. It’s a sign that the price is very high. It’s great that they’re reporting earnings. That really hasn’t been enough time to look at their books to understand what’s been done. But I’m glad Tesla is making money. It’s just hard for them to do it in a consistent way.
RT: Tony, I think you are you’re a fan of the Navratri festival, are you not?
TN: Absolutely, yes. We celebrate every year, and I’m not Hindu, but my youngest son is Indian. And so we always try to make a point of the cultural festivals and we just love it. It’s fantastic.
RT: Social gatherings have become part of the presidential election campaign, haven’t they? We’re seeing two very contrasting strategies here from Donald Trump, who has larger gatherings, and Joe Biden who doesn’t.
TN: It’s interesting to see the turnout, it’s interesting to see the response and I think in most places, getting crowds together is really important with elections. In the US, elections have become somewhat sanitary. We saw this really start with Obama and we saw it accelerate with Trump, where people get together in big crowds in a way that they haven’t for quite some time. So it’s become important to the US election cycle.
RT: As we come out of the pandemic, many things are going to change. We’re probably going to do a lot more online shopping than go to shops. Is that something that we’re going to see with sports? It’s something that clubs are going to get going to have to get used to, which is maybe less fans in the stadium. And it is going to become more of a televised experience, even if that’s difficult for some of the smaller clubs.
TN: I’m not an ice hockey fan, so I don’t know what Manchester United is so tired.
RT: They’re a football club. But I’m glad that you confirmed what I’ve always thought that they played.
TN: I’m an American football fan, college football fan, very avid. I’ve been to the stadium to see college football games. And and it’s great. I think to take measures, you wash your hands and nobody got sick and nobody died. It was great. As people socialize, this can happen. And if people need to increase the state attendance at stadiums from 25 percent and then ramp it up, that’s fine.But we’ve got to re-socialize. We have to redo this stuff. And I’ve done it. I’m going to do it again in a couple of weeks. There is such a thing as normal and we can get back there.
RT: Dogs and cats, huh?
TN: Dogs, definitely dogs. I actually got a new dog just before Covid hit. He’s a beautiful pound puppy and his name is Buddy. It was the perfect timing. I understand all these people getting dogs during Covid and other pets, although not cats, but definitely dogs during Covid. And it‘s just a great companion to be around.
RT: Has that helped you during this period a lot?
TN: I lived in Singapore for 15 years and we got a dog there that was a smaller dog back here. Our new dog is bigger and he makes me walk him twice a day. So it’s good. I haven’t been able to lounge around from sunrise to sunset. And he’s very needy, which is necessary. I’ve got three kids and they’re needy, but the dog is needy in a different way. So I’m more determined and more selfish about behavior, actually. So it’s been really good to have him because he doesn’t stop.