Judge Denies Tobacco Industry’s Bid To Vacate Massive RICO Ruling

In March 2011, the tobacco companies filed a motion to vacate the district court’s seminal RICO ruling in United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 449 F.Supp.2d 1, 934 (D.D.C. 2006) on the ground that the recently enacted Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act eliminates any reasonable likelihood that defendants will engage in future RICO violations.  The 2006 ruling, issued after a nine-month trial and containing more than 4,000 findings of fact, was a substantial victory for the public health and the Public Health Intervenors who we represent.  Among other remedies, the court required the companies to stop using misleading health descriptors like “light” and “low tar” and to issue corrective statements concerning their fraud. Defendants sought vacatur of the court’s findings and remedies, but we and the United States argued that the new statute is not likely to prevent defendants from engaging in the future joint racketeering that the district court had determined, and the D.C. Circuit had affirmed, is likely to continue here.  In a decision issued last week, Judge Kessler agreed with our arguments, holding that “given the type of wrongdoing in which the Defendants have engaged [the Act] simply does not eradicate the likelihood that Defendants will continue to commit RICO violations.”  The opinion, United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., Civ. No. 99-2496 (GK) (D.D.C. June 1, 2011), is available here.