United States v. Philip Morris USA
In 1999, the United States filed a lawsuit against the major cigarette manufacturers and related trade organizations alleging that defendants fraudulently misled American consumers for decades about the risks and dangers of cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke in violation of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). In 2006, the court found that defendants violated RICO and that there was a reasonable likelihood that defendants would continue to violate RICO in the future. On appeal, the district court’s findings were upheld, in part, vacated, in part, and remanded, in part, to the district court. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from both sides in the case in June 2010, the district court began to implement the 2006 final order.
The appellate court affirmed defendants' liability under RICO, finding that defendants conspired to perpetrate wire and mail fraud, intending to defraud consumers by knowingly disseminating false information about the addictiveness of smoking and the health effects of so-called "light" and "low tar" cigarettes and secondhand smoke. The court further affirmed the trial court's rejection of defendants' arguments that rights to free expression and to petition the government shielded them from liability, finding that First Amendment protections do not adhere to deliberately false or misleading statements and that the commercial speech doctrine does not prohibit the court from requiring defendants to disseminate truthful information as a remedy for the defendants' previous fraudulent statements. The court affirmed liability as to all defendants (except the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute, which were disbanded under the final order) and affirmed much of the 2006 final order, but vacated the final order with regard to four discrete issues, remanding for further proceedings.