Big Tobacco Seeks Deal in Federal Racketeering Case

A secret meeting between U.S. Justice Department officials and representatives of major U.S. tobacco firms included talks about both sides dropping planned Supreme Court appeals of a major racketeering case, the Associated Press reported Jan. 16.

Tobacco executives reportedly asked Solicitor General Elena Kagan to drop an appeal of a lower-court ruling that the government couldn’t collect a requested $280-billion in past industry profits or compel the companies to fund a $14-billion nationwide stop-smoking campaign. In return, the tobacco firms discussed the possibility of the industry dropping its own appeal of the lower-court case, which found tobacco firms guilty of racketeering.

Internal documents show that the Justice Department is considering a deal, although possibly one including a multibillion-dollar settlement from tobacco firms.

The decade-long racketeering lawsuit ended with U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruling that the industry falsely denied the health impact of smoking, hid evidence about the addictiveness of nicotine, and manipulated nicotine levels in cigarettes to encourage addiction. Those findings were later upheld by a federal appeals court.

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