Excerpt from Legal Newsline:

SANTA FE, N.M. (Legal Newsline) – Responding to inquiries sparked by a Legal Newsline investigation, the New Mexico State Ethics Commission said a $148 million contingency fee paid to private lawyers out of an opioid settlement was subject to a procurement law governing all expenditures by state agencies.

New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez approved payment of roughly a third of the state’s $453 million settlement with Walgreens earlier this year to private lawyers, some of whom had made campaign contributions to his predecessor Hector Balderas, who hired the firms. The fee was triple what other government plaintiffs have paid their private lawyers in national opioid settlements and only came to light after Legal Newsline filed a public information request with the AG’s office.

John Decker, president of the Viante Foundation, said his group is asking current AG Torres to release the findings of a state auditor’s investigation into how Balderas hired the firms and whether it was a competitive process. Viante, which says its mission is to support “common ground solutions to education, crime and economic opportunity,” said the law firms had contributed more than $57,000 into Balderas’ political campaigns over his career.

“Contingency fee contracts such as the ones Hector Balderas engaged in are subject to the procurement code, and we believe that the public has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” Decker said.

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