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United States v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.

In 1999, the United States filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the major cigarette manufacturers and related trade organizations alleging that defendants, while acting as an enterprise, 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.

As a means of preventing future RICO violations, the district court ordered the tobacco companies to issue corrective statements on five topics in which they had misled the public, including the adverse health effects of smoking and the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine. The companies challenged the language of the corrective statements ordered by the court. A previous decision upheld all of the corrective statements with the exception of the introductory sentence. In this decision, the district court found that a revised introductory statement submitted by the government is acceptable because it removes any reference to tobacco companies’ prior deceptive conduct. The judge castigated the tobacco companies for attempting to rewrite the corrective statements entirely, calling it a “ridiculous – a waste of precious time, energy, and money for all concerned – and a loss of information for the public.” The court also refused to change any of the terms in the previously agreed upon consent order.