Big Tobacco Can’t Toss Out RICO Violations

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The federal courts still have jurisdiction over racketeering claims brought against Philip Morris and other big tobacco companies in 1999, a judge ruled.

     U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler rejected Philip Morris’ argument that the Food and Drug Administration has rightful jurisdiction following the enactment of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which created a regulatory program designed to control the “public dissemination of information about the health effects and addictiveness of smoking.”
     Big Tobacco’s argument challenged the court’s 2004 ruling granting injunctive relief to the federal government, along with a plethora of intervening plaintiffs, including the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, in an effort to prevent tobacco companies from committing further RICO violations.
     “The court held that defendants ‘knowingly and intentionally engaged in a scheme to defraud smokers and potential smokers, for purposes of financial gain, by making false and fraudulent statements, representations, and promises,” Kessler summarized. “This is not a case in which ‘the judicial process [should be] suspended pending referral of such issues to the administrative body for its views.'”
     Kessler’s ruling Wednesday denied the companies’ motion for vacatur.
     Philip Morris USA, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco are a few of several tobacco companies listed as defendants in the original 1999 complaint filed by the federal government.

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