The Brief No. 43: Opiates of the Masses?

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June 19, 2019

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Governments and attorneys involved in the opioid litigation just unveiled a plan for a major settlement that could be a significant step towards a legal resolution to this massive public health crisis. Still, much has to be done for this settlement to move forward and resulting suits from those who opt out along with administration of the massive proposed settlement fund is sure to keep lawyers, governments and claims administrators busy for years to come. Check out insights from our friends at on what related skill sets are currently in demand plus tips for firms involved in opioid litigation here on the blog.

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Internet Freedom Costs a Buck-o-Five? The love affair between the government and “Big Tech” is officially over on both sides of the political aisle with President Trump and Senator Elizabeth Warren calling for antitrust inquiries into tech giants. Last week, the Justice Department tasked with leading the probe into Google and possibly Apple laid out the case and potential arguments as the Federal Trade Commission looks into potential antitrust cases against Facebook and Amazon. Multiple states are now also considering their own investigations. This week, tech companies continue to beef up and reshuffle their lobbying teams... yet their law and lobbying firm spend continues to be pennies in comparison to profits. Google (via parent company Alphabet) and Facebook reported $36 and $15 Billion in respective Q1 2019 revenue and spent a respective  $3.4M and $3.5M in lobbying so far in 2019 while Amazon rang up a $4M tab against it’s almost $60 Billion in Q1 2019 Revenue. The future will tell if Big Tech will be able to buy the law and the future of the internet for less than they spend on gourmet snacks for their coveted employees at their luxe campuses.

Tariff Tête-à-Tête: The future may hold even rougher economic waters than the world economy has the capacity to focus on as the dizzying pace of the current “Tariff Tear” continues. Last week China summoned business leaders to a closed-door meeting warning of consequences for complying with the Trump administration’s ban on sales of technology to Chinese companies.  After this tense meeting made news, a minor sigh of relief was breathed as Trump ultimately relented on his threat to increase tariffs on Mexico amidst threats of rebellion by his own party. POTUS claimed secret yet-to-be-announced provisions of the deal amidst commentary that all that was gained was a slight variation of a promise Mexico had committed to last year. But this week, Economists aren’t celebrating, instead seeing bigger looming storm clouds ahead. The majority of economists polled by the Wall Street Journal put the probability of a recession in the next 12 months at 30.1%, with tariffs as a major risk factor. Should law firms be bracing for another 2008?

Shock and Yawn? Another day, another White House departure and legal quandary. Sarah Sanders announced she will be taking her turn through the revolving door after being one of the administration’s longest-serving members. Trump’s own recently appointed Special Counsel Henry Kerner called for the resignation of another loyal female defender, Kellyanne Conway, for violations of the Hatch Act. Conway has outlasted all but Trump’s own family in her tenure and like Sanders was known for her ability to normalize the administration’s xenophobia, misogyny, and racism while alternately denying or rewriting public statements of the administration. For now, Trump stood by his woman as he primarily focused on stepping back comments he made that he would accept “dirt” on 2020 Democratic candidates from a foreign government which he initially framed as normal opposition research. His own party noted that welcoming meddling from foreign governments into US elections cuts at the core of our democracy and publicly urged him to rescind these statements as Democratic calls for impeachment grew citing concerns that the president is a national security threat.


Jon Stewart’s emotional defense of 9/11 first responders during a hearing to expand the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund went viral and led to swift passing of the bill through the house committee. With many ill firefighters, police officers, and other first responders behind him who had traveled to Washington amidst chemotherapy treatments and other health consequences of being at the scene of the September 11 attacks in Pennsylvania, Washington and New York, he called out the empty congressional audience and their tweeting of “Never Forget.”   

While the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to quickly pass the fund’s expansion, the question remains whether the Republican-controlled Senate will follow. Congressional Republicans previously attempted to filibuster the fund. Also, despite 9/11 previously being used by Congress to justify enhanced national citizen surveillance and security measures as well as involving the nation in multiple foreign conflicts, many Republicans now believe that assisting 9/11 victims (who hail from all 50 states) is a “New York” or “State” “Issue”.

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