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GOP Senators Urge DOJ, SEC To Investigate Drug Company’s Ties To Mexican Drug Cartels


GOP Republicans sent a letter to the DOJ and SEC urging an investigation into chemical company Avantor for its corrupt dealings with Mexican drug cartels.


A handful of Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice today requesting an investigation into Fortune 500 chemical company Avantor and its participation in the Mexican narcotics trade.

The senators allude to a report by Bloomberg published in August 2020 that showed Avantor’s acetic anhydride product line, J.T. Baker, was being obtained by Mexican cartels. After receiving the product, the cartels produced methamphetamine and heroin. Reporters Cam Simpson, Michael Smith, and Nacha Cattan wrote:

Avantor is one of a handful of U.S. companies that supply the legal market for those chemicals in Mexico—a market the cartels have had little trouble tapping to make narcotics on a massive scale, a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation has found. Mexico is the source of the vast majority of the heroin and meth sold in the U.S., where more than 142,000 people died from overdoses involving the two drugs from 2010 through 2018.

The letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee was signed by Republicans John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Ted Cruz of Texas. The senators say the opioid epidemic killed an estimated 50,000 Americans in 2019 and recognize the DOJ and SEC play a major role in “helping fight against the opioid epidemic.”

“When the Bloomberg articles were published, Avantor abruptly stopped selling acetic anhydride in Mexico and ordered the destruction of any remaining inventory,” the letter states. “Under all the circumstances, it is simply not credible to believe or argue that Avantor was not aware of the use of its product in Mexico for the production of heroin, 92% of which is exported to the United States.”

Avantor did not immediately respond to The Federalist’s request for comment.

The letter calls on Garland to conduct an investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The act, signed into law in 1977, makes it illegal for “persons and entities” to pay foreign governments in relation to ongoing or future business opportunities. It aims to stop foreign bribery that would violate someone’s lawful duty to their country as an official. Specifically, the senators explicate a portion of the FCPA Resource Guide from July 2020 that says a person or entity must address the “operational realities and risks attendant” in its business dealings.

The letter asks the DOJ and SEC to address the following questions:

(1) Is there an active civil or criminal investigation into Avantor and/or any of its executives?

(2) Before the August 2020 Bloomberg story on Avantor’s connection to Mexican drug cartels was published, did Avantor self-disclose that it had produced, manufactured, and sold a precursor chemical—{acetic anhydride)-that had been diverted to Mexican drug cartels?

(3) If there is an open investigation into Avantor’s conduct related to acetic anhydride, would you say that the company is “cooperating” with that investigation? If so, how?

(4) If there is no open investigation into Avantor’s conduct, will you commit to me to reminding Avantor of the importance of corporations “self-policing,” and providing “voluntary disclosures to the government of any problems that a corporation discovers on its own”? See Justice Manual 9-28.900.

(5) What steps, if any, are the DOJ and SEC taking to regulate companies that are tied to the opioid epidemic, including, but not limited to, the diversion of dangerous precursor chemicals to Mexican drug cartels?

(6) Are there any other legislative solutions that could help increase internal controls and reporting requirements for chemical companies, like Avantor, who manufacture and distribute dangerous precursor chemicals?