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Civil RICO Update; Court Requires Cigarette Companies To Issue Corrective Statement


On December 6th, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a joint announcement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) resolving the federal government’s long-running civil RICO lawsuit against many of the nation’s largest cigarette companies. As part of the agreement, these companies will take additional corrective action. In this article, our Miami RICO claims lawyers provide an overview of this case and explain the court’s instructions.  

 Background & History: Cigarette Companies Involved in Massive RICO Case  

Tobacco litigation has a multi-decade history in the United States. In the late 1990s, the federal government filed a civil lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against several major tobacco companies, including Altria, Philip Morris, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. These were the three largest cigarette companies nationwide.   

 Nearly Two Decades Ago Court Ruled Cigarette Companies Defrauded Customers  

In a landmark ruling issued in 2006, a federal judge in Washington, DC ruled that the cigarette companies named as defendants had violated civil racketeering laws. Within the key decision, the federal court determined that the tobacco giants had engaged in a multi-decade conspiracy to defraud consumers, including by:   

  • Deceiving them about the public health risks associated with smoking; and 
  • Marketing cigarettes to children.   Along with the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in tobacco litigation—which requires the cigarette companies to collectively payout more than $206 billion over 25 years—the federal civil RICO cases required these companies to issue “corrective statements.” For more than ten years, this matter has been appealed.   New Order: Several More Corrective Measures in Civil Racketeering Case  As of December 6th, 2022, the DOJ and HHS have finally resolved the long-standing civil RICO case with major tobacco companies. As part of the final decision, the tobacco companies covered by the agreement must amend the contracts that they have with individual retailers to place certain corrective statements. The statements should be clearly visible and displayed in a reasonably eye-catching manner. The corrective statements are focused on the following four issues:   
  1. Death of Users: An average of 1,200 Americans die because of smoking each day.  
  2. Addiction: Cigarettes are highly addictive and have been designed that way.  
  3. Light as Bad: Light cigarettes are just as bad for your health as other cigarettes.  
  4. Second-Hand Smoking: Second-hand smoking is dangerous, especially for kids. 

A civil RICO violation occurs when defendants engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity as part of a formal or informal enterprise. The cigarette companies have been found liable for civil RICO violations.  

 Consult With Our Miami Civil Racketeering Attorney Today 

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida civil RICO claims lawyers are standing by, ready to help you navigate the legal process. If you have any questions about civil racketeering claims, please do not hesitate to contact us for a fully confidential consultation. With a law office in Miami and a law office in West Palm Beach, we provide civil RICO claims representation throughout South Florida.  



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