Communications & Public Affairs
Oct. 10, 2019

Contact: State Rep. Collin Walke
Phone: (405) 557-7335

State Representative Questions State Regent’s Representation in Opioid Appeal

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Collin Walke (D-OKC) released the following statement questioning Oklahoma Regent for State Higher Education Andrew Lester’s involvement in the current opioid litigation on behalf of Johnson & Johnson:

“I am absolutely astounded that a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is working on behalf of the very people who are responsible for Oklahoma’s opioid nuisance and who is hoping to reduce or completely nullify the historic judgment that will help bring restitution and recovery to our citizens.”

Andrew Lester is a regent and is also a partner at Spencer Fane. Mr. Lester recently entered his appearance on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the defendants and appellants in the recent opioid trial in Oklahoma.

“The universities of this state will be integral in helping to abate the nuisance that Mr. Lester’s clients caused, just look at the opioid settlement money being utilized in conjunction with Oklahoma State University’s National Center for Wellness & Recovery.”

“Unless Mr. Lester is representing Johnson & Johnson pro bono, which I doubt, I fail to see how there isn’t a potential conflict of interest. This is especially surprising given the fact that in an Attorney General’s opinion from 1980, it was explained that ‘when addressing questions with respect to a possible conflict of interest, it appears that a standard which may be derived from authorities is that public policy is contravened when a public official places himself in a position which is inconsistent with his public function or which interferes with his unbiased performance of his duties or has a tendency to induce him to violate such duty regardless of whether it can be shown that the public actually suffered any detriment.’”

“If Mr. Lester wins the case for his clients, Oklahomans lose. So, I want to know who holds Mr. Lester’s loyalty? The universities, its students, and the public at large, or Johnson & Johnson? If it is the latter, then Mr. Lester should decide to avoid the appearance of impropriety and step away from the regents.”