Here’s a story I found more than a little disappointing.
The US Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas has abruptly resigned, giving no reason other than to ‘pursue other opportunities’. I believe that runs dead even with ‘spend more time with my family’ in the civil servant’s lexicon of popular excuses. It’s often employed to conceal the real reasons behind an uncomfortable departure.
That seems to have been true in this case. Seems that everyone involved knows it was really in response to interference by his bosses at the Department of Justice (DOJ) when his Office attempted to prosecute a principal offender in the dispensing of opoids that fueled the prescription drug epidemic in his community.
Of course, it wasn’t just any offender they wanted to charge. It was Walmart, the world’s largest company. And with criminal instead of civil charges.
Oops. The story from last March:
Apparently the giant discount chain had been beset with complaints from its own pharmacists over its practice of continuing to dispense pills to physicians who were known to regularly overprescribe them. “Pill mill docs” would be another name. The complaints had come a number of states, not just Texas, and Walmart’s Corporate headquarters had either failed to respond, or pushed back hard on the pharmacists themselves. Forbade them from cutting off a physician altogether, regardless of history. Instead, demanded that each prescription be assessed separately – which, given the sheer volume, effectively stalled the process.
In one instance, a Corporate Compliance manager came right out and told a complaining pharmacist that their role was to drive sales for the company, not suppress them. Translation: keep pushing them pills, people.
Once the DEA got involved, discussions moved towards possible criminal prosecution. Seems nobody had ever done that before – probably because it took some nerve to move against a company with 2 million employees.
Walmart’s hired attorneys went directly to DOJ to protest. And DOJ obligingly put its foot down on the prosecutors. “Decline to pursue” was their recommendation. Walmart was off the hook.
Maybe there were sound legal reasons behind DOJ’s decision to back off, despite all the evidence against the retailer. Maybe politics wasn’t actually the deciding factor.
I find that a bit difficult to swallow, particularly in this era.
Anyway, the US Attorney chose to resign. He has a career to protect, may run for office in his home county, an hour north of Dallas. Those who matter to him know what really happened. He kept his mouth shut, for propriety’s sake.
Would you have done different in his place? Big corporations (and this one is the Big Kahuna of US retail) can hire battalions of attorneys paid handsomely to do whatever it takes to win. That could include ruining the career of a distinguished public official. Easier to just move on, right? Or so many decide.
As I said, I get it. No blame.
Doesn’t mean we have to approve of the result, however.