E-cigarette Antitrust Lawsuits
JUUL quickly grew into the nation’s largest e-cigarette manufacturer within a few short years of its 2015 launch. The company is now facing allegations that it and global cigarette manufacturer Altria Group, Inc., engaged in illegal, anticompetitive behavior to boost e-cigarette sales and tighten JUUL’s stronghold on the industry.
ANTITRUST CLAIMS TO PROCEED AGAINST JUUL, ALTRIA IN FEDERAL COURT
Aug. 19, 2021
The Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs’ allege JUUL schemed with global cigarette manufacturer Altria Group, Inc. to tighten its grip on the e-cigarette industry, withstood a motion to dismiss on Aug. 19, 2021.
While U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick granted a defense request to compel the direct purchaser class’ three named representatives to arbitration, he allowed time for the class to substitute a proposed plaintiff whose claims would not be subject to arbitration. The remaining motions to dismiss were largely denied, however, allowing the class action to proceed in the Northern District of California. Read the order.
Motley Rice filed suit over these allegations in April 2020. Motley Rice antitrust attorney Michelle Clerkin is a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs. Jacob Onile-Ere is also a member of the JUUL litigation team who will be assisting Lead Counsel and the Steering Committee for the Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs in the prosecution of this action.
JUUL and Altria alleged misconduct
Formerly Philip Morris, Altria is one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers. The company competed with JUUL for years as the second-leading manufacturer of e-cigarettes, but later abandoned its e-cigarette production efforts in 2018 after buying a 35% share of JUUL. The $12.8 billion deal made Altria JUUL’s largest investor.
No longer competitors, JUUL and Altria’s mutually beneficial deal secured JUUL’s place as the nation’s leading e-cigarette manufacturer and allegedly removed incentives to keep prices in check, harming consumers. The deal constituted an “unreasonable restraint of trade” in violation of federal antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Commission stated in a press release on April 2020 that announced its filing of an administrative complaint against both companies. The case is scheduled to go to trial in January 2021. The FTC’s trial against JUUL and Altria began June 2021 and is ongoing.
Motley Rice filed the first direct purchaser claim in the civil class action in the country, Reece v. Altria Group Inc. et al., for consumers who were impacted by JUUL and Altria’s alleged anticompetitive conduct. You may read the complaint here.
Motley Rice’s JUUL and antitrust litigation experience
Our antitrust attorneys have extensive experience litigating numerous antitrust cases across a variety of industries and trade practices. The firm’s antitrust practice leader Michael Buchman played an active role in resolving two of the largest U.S. multi-billion dollar antitrust settlements since the Sherman Act was enacted, In re NASDAQ Market-Makers Antitrust Litigation and In re Visa Check/Mastermoney Antitrust Litigation. He also represents the largest retailer class representative in the $5.5 billion MasterCard MDL, In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, MDL 1720, which is currently pending on appeal. The firm also represents consumers, union health and welfare plans, and health insurers in several generic drug antitrust litigation cases.
Read more e-cigarette antitrust lawsuits:
The Wall Street Journal (June 2, 2021): Altria-Juul Deal Goes to Trial
Law360 (April 7, 2020): Altria, Juul Face Consumer Antitrust Action Over $12.8B Deal
AP News (April 2, 2020): Feds seek breakup of Altria-Juul deal on antitrust grounds
Bloomberg (Dec. 20, 2018): Altria Invests $12.8 Billion in E-Cigarette Maker Juul