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Richard A. Bennett of Oxford represents District 19 in the Maine Senate.
Hundreds of Mainers die each year from opioid dependence and drug overdoses. In fact, Maine is on track to surpass a record 500 overdose deaths in 2020. This is the second straight record year.
Now, consider these facts:
Our state government will receive $3.14 million in settlement from McKinsey & Co. for its role in advising Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family on how to make billions of dollars from opioid medications, which have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. McKinsey is a global management consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.
Maine’s Department of Labor is now paying $6.44 million in a no-bid contract with McKinsey & Co. for advice on how to fix our broken unemployment system. It started the work on June 15, and it just extended the work — at something like $27,000 per week — to the end of next month.
Meanwhile, I am still hearing from constituents who can’t get a call returned from the unemployment office.
In late 2019, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey joined 47 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia to sue McKinsey & Co. Earlier this month, the attorney general announced McKinsey has agreed to pay $573 million nationwide and turn over documents that incriminate its former pharma clients.
The attorney general’s office said, “McKinsey contributed to the opioid crisis by promoting marketing schemes and consulting services to opioid manufacturers, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, for over a decade. The complaint, filed with the settlement, details how McKinsey advised Purdue on how to maximize profits from its opioid products, including targeting high-volume opioid prescribers, using specific messaging to get physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients, and circumventing pharmacy restrictions in order to deliver high-dose prescriptions.”
According to the BDN’s reporting, “When states began to sue Purdue Pharma’s directors for their implementation of McKinsey’s marketing schemes, McKinsey partners began emailing each other about deleting documents and emails related to their work for Purdue.”
McKinsey has about 2,000 partners worldwide. They each make up to $1.3 million per year. These are the people to whom the Maine Department of Labor has paid $6.44 million.
It seems McKinsey was much more effective in marketing opioids to Mainers and marketing itself to the Department of Labor than actually fixing the unemployment system.
But if you think the Mills’ Labor Department is McKinsey’s only easy mark for peddling its exorbitant advice for CARES Act funding, for better or worse Maine is not alone. According to the Wall Street Journal, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “awarded McKinsey a $9.9 million contract in March to advise the state on issues related to Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. That included 18 weeks of ‘leadership counseling’ at $42,500 a week. … McKinsey also did work for Massachusetts, some of which appeared to involve little more than forwarding others’ material along. Researchers at Harvard University prepared reports for the state’s health department tracking population movements. Consultants at McKinsey used the reports verbatim in material for the governor, according to a person familiar with the work.”
My colleague Sen. Lisa Keim told me about one of her constituents, whose job working with students has been affected by multiple layoffs with the on-and-off again COVID school schedule. Frustrated with the state unemployment system, he wrote: “I have spent literally a dozen or more hours on hold and probably at least 2 hours actually talking with various unemployment representatives. I like to believe that these systems will be here to help in times of need like this but it gets frustrating when I feel like I am stuck in a maze with literally no way out except to wait a month for benefits.”
This is the outcome $6.44 million of Maine taxpayer dollars has purchased. Mainers deserve transparency and accountability.