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  • 1440 Daily Digest

Morning Headlines: 12/4/23

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Bankruptcy Questions

The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on the legality of a wide-ranging settlement at the center of the country's decades-long opioid crisis. The latest in the legal saga of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, the case raises two questions—who can challenge bankruptcy plans, and when should bankruptcy be used to settle mass tort suits (those with many plaintiffs).

OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller, is widely blamed for fueling the opioid epidemic that resulted in nearly 450,000 US deaths between 1999 and 2018. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 in an attempt to settle thousands of lawsuits alleging it intentionally downplayed the drug's addictive nature. In September 2021, a plan was approved that included members of the Sackler family, which owned Purdue, allocating $6B for victims and other creditors in exchange for being released from personal liability.

The plan was vacated by a district court and then upheld by a federal appeals court. Despite being approved by a significant majority of plaintiffs, a federally appointed trustee and some plaintiffs oppose releasing family members from liability. A decision is expected in the spring.

College Football Playoff

The 2023 College Football Playoff was unveiled yesterday, with No. 1 Michigan (13-0) taking on No. 4 Alabama (12-1) in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day (5 pm ET, ESPN), followed by No. 2 Washington (13-0) facing off against No. 3 Texas (12-1) in the Sugar Bowl. All four teams won their respective conference championships over the weekend.

The selection sparked controversy, with undefeated Florida State (13-0), who beat Louisville Saturday night to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, left out at No. 5. The Seminoles become the first undefeated major conference team to be excluded from the playoff since its 2014 inception. The committee pointed to a season-ending injury to star FSU QB Jordan Travis in week 12, while Alabama defeated two-time defending champion Georgia Saturday afternoon.

Notable nonplayoff matchups include FSU versus Georgia (Orange Bowl), Oregon versus undefeated upstart Liberty, and more. See the full schedule of matchups here.

Venezuela Referendum

Venezuelans went to the polls yesterday to decide whether to annex Guyana's oil-rich region of Essequibo yesterday in a nonbinding referendum, the latest move in a nearly two-century territorial dispute. Results were still being tabulated as of late yesterday evening.

Great Britain purchased Guyana from the Dutch in the early 1800s and surveyed its western border deep into Venezuela, recently independent from Spain. Venezuela protested the boundary placement for decades, which added roughly 30,000 square miles to British Guyana (see history).

In 1899, Venezuela effectively lost an attempt to win back the territory in a European-arbitrated decision, and attempts by the international community to settle the issue since have floundered. ExxonMobil's 2015 discovery of major oil deposits in Essequibo has transformed Guyana into a major offshore oil producer.

The move comes as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro faces reelection next year, having survived a 2019 challenge from a breakaway government led by Juan Guaidó. Learn more here.

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