McKinsey & Co Faces Criminal Probe in U.S. Over Opioid Crisis Role

Federal investigation targets McKinsey & Co's consulting practices with opioid makers.

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Federal investigation targets McKinsey’s consulting practices with opioid makers.

McKinsey & Co finds itself at the center of a U.S. criminal investigation surrounding allegations of complicity in exacerbating the opioid epidemic. The probe, initiated by federal prosecutors, focuses on McKinsey’s consultancy services provided to Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical entities.

While McKinsey and the U.S. Justice Department have refrained from commenting, sources familiar with the matter reveal that the investigation delves into whether McKinsey engaged in a criminal conspiracy by advising on marketing strategies that promoted the sales of prescription painkillers, leading to widespread addiction and fatal overdoses.

Furthermore, the Justice Department is scrutinizing whether McKinsey’s consulting work for opioid-selling companies resulted in fraudulent claims submitted to government healthcare programs such as Medicare. The investigation also encompasses allegations of obstruction of justice, following McKinsey’s acknowledgment of firing two partners involved in the deletion of documents linked to their work on opioids.

This multi-faceted inquiry, initiated several years ago, involves Justice Department officials across various offices in Washington, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Both parties are currently engaged in discussions aimed at resolving the investigation.

It’s essential to note that investigations do not imply wrongdoing, and outcomes may vary from criminal charges to civil sanctions or even the closure of the probe without any action taken.

McKinsey’s past involvement with opioid manufacturers has attracted significant attention, with the company reaching agreements totaling nearly $1 billion to settle opioid-related lawsuits and legal actions brought by various entities. Despite these settlements, McKinsey maintains that none have included admissions of liability or wrongdoing.

In a statement released in 2022, McKinsey expressed understanding of the scrutiny surrounding its past client services to opioid manufacturers, acknowledging that although lawful, these services fell short of their internal standards.

Purdue Pharma, a key player in the opioid crisis, declined to comment on the matter. The drugmaker pleaded guilty in 2020 to criminal charges related to its handling of opioid painkillers and has since filed for bankruptcy.

Prosecutors continue to navigate through extensive documentation and engage in discussions with McKinsey’s legal representatives as they progress in their criminal investigation.