Internal Tobacco Company Documents Reveal Price-Fixing Abroad
Internal documents from tobacco companies recently released as part of the 1998 national tobacco settlement indicate that several "major cigarette makers attempted to coordinate price increases and limit competition in parts of Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s," the Wall Street Journal reports. Although the "secret" documents offered no indication that the companies engaged in price-fixing in the United States, they "have helped to fuel a batch of lawsuits" accusing tobacco companies of "anti-competitive behavior" and have provided plaintiffs' attorneys and anti-tobacco advocates with a "new front in their assault" on the industry. "The documents show that this is a regular way of doing business" for the tobacco companies, Jeffrey Bean, a member of a team of lawyers suing major cigarette makers for price-fixing in the United States, said, adding, "It is coordinated at a very high, central level." For example, a memo from a British American Tobacco executive written after a trip to Nigeria in 1990 said that BAT, Philip Morris and another tobacco company would "all sell at the same price." However, Greg Prager, a spokesperson for Philip Morris, said, "The activities outlined in those documents certainly were not in violation of any laws. In fact, in many cases these arrangements were made with the full knowledge and support" of national governments (Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 7/6).
In other tobacco news, a Nevada federal judge this week denied four plaintiffs' bid to have their cases against several tobacco companies certified as a class-action lawsuit, concluding that the claims had "individual issues," Reuters/Los Angeles Times reports. One case involved smokers, while the other three cases involved non-smoking casino employees "exposed to secondhand smoke." Philip Morris, one of the defendants, said that since 1994, only seven of 100 cases filed seeking class-action status have received certification (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 7/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.