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Morrisey files opioid suit against Kroger Pharmacy; joins 16 other states to question investment firm’s ties to BDS movement

MORGANTOWN – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced on Wednesday morning another opioid lawsuit – this one against Kroger Pharmacy.

Morrisey also commented on a multistate letter raising concerns about a financial services firm’s ties to the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement that targets the nation of Israel.

Morrisey spoke at a virtual press conference held in Martinsburg.

In the Kroger case, Morrisey said Kroger has not cooperated in providing documents his office has been seeking, so they filed suit in Putnam County Circuit Court.

No details of the suit were available, but suits against three other pharmacies – Walmart, CVS and Walgreens – are set for Sept. 26.

The Walgreens suit was filed in June 2020 in Putnam court; the other two followed that August. They alleged that the pharmacies, as distributors, supplied more opioids to its pharmacies than was necessary to meet legitimate patient needs; and the pharmacies ordered more from other distributors. In doing so, it failed to maintain effective controls against diversion and contributed to oversupply of opioids in the state and to opioid abuse.

In mid-August, Morrisey announced a settlement with a fifth pharmacy, Rite Aid, for up to $30 million. That suit also was filed in June 2020 in Putnam.

On the BDS issue, Morrisey joined with Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to send a letter – signed by 15 other state attorneys general – to Chicago-based Morningstar Inc., raising concerns that the company, through its subsidiary Sustainalytics, may be furthering the BDS movement.

He said, “We’re not going to tolerate these companies that think they can be really political and engage in things that potentially break state law.”

West Virginia is one of 35 states have adopted laws, executive orders or resolutions in opposition to BDS. West Virginia passed the Anti-Discrimination Against Israel Act in 2021 – 94-2 in the House, 34-0 in the Senate.

It says, “A public entity may not enter into a contract with a company for goods or services valued at $100,000 or more unless the contract includes a written certification that the company is not currently engaged in, and will not for the duration of the contract, engage in a boycott of Israel.”

The coalition asks Morningstar, which is under investigation by 18 states for these practices, to respond to its questions about Sustainalytics’ actions by Aug. 31.

BDS describes itself as a “movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.” It opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. But the Anti-Defamation League says BDS opposes a two-state solution and its goal is “the demonetization and delegitimization of Israel.”

The letter observes that Morningstar undertook an internal review of Sustainalytics and found it “overly dismissive,” and hired an outside firm to conduct another review.

The letter says Sustainalytics is an ESG ( environmental, social and corporate governance) ratings firm relies on a guidance document regarding “Occupied Territories.” The company has Israel on a watchlist for its efforts to protect its borders.

Sustainalytics also ranks Israel with the dictatorships of China, Iran, Myanmar, South Sudan and Russia, the letter says. “But Israel is not like China, Myanmar, Russia, and other nations led by despots. Rather, Israel remains a diverse democracy with “strong and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties. … Sustainalytics’s failure to draw a distinction between Israeli democracy and repressive regimes shocks our collective conscience.”

The letter says Sustainalytics’s research and ratings depend on information from known supporters of the BDS movement. “Reliance on such inherently biased data inevitably leads to anti-Israel bias. … The States we represent stand with Israel and with the Jewish people.”

The other states cosigning the letter are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

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