Ralph Nader today issued the following statement:
The multistate settlement agreement between some state attorneys general and Big Tobacco is plainly a sweetheart deal concocted by the addictive companies’ law firms for the industry. State AGs should reject it.
The reported insistence by the industry that states accept the deal on a take-it-or-leave-it basis within a week should be indication enough that something is seriously wrong. Attorneys general should demand at least 60 days to review the proposed intricate deal.
What possible justification is there for ramming this deal through? Is the industry trying to circumvent newly elected, tougher-on-tobacco attorneys general in California, New York and elsewhere?
The deal would let the industry get off cheap, enable the companies to keep secret many of their most incriminating documents, interfere with local enforcement actions and suits against Big Tobacco, and tie the hands of future attorneys general in addressing future misconduct by the industry.
It contains worrisome provisions that will enable Big Tobacco to shield its food and beverage divisions from payment obligations. RJR and Brown and Williamson are even permitted to shield revenue from their international operations.
The deal’s public health measures are very weak. There are no “look-back” penalties, which would penalize the companies if sales to minors do not fall.
State attorneys general should reject the proposed deal. There is an alternative — take their cases to trial, or settle them on an individual basis. States doing this would get better deals, and the opportunity to build on what came before. Early settling states would benefit from later settlement innovations, through “Most Favored Nation” provisions.