According to the Complaint, Altria Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine in the United States. Altria offers, among other products and services, cigarettes, primarily under the Marlboro brand; cigars, principally under the Black & Mild brand; and moist smokeless tobacco products under the Copenhagen, Skoal, Red Seal, and Husky brands. The Company sells its tobacco products primarily to wholesalers, including distributors; large retail organizations, such as chain stores; and the armed services.
The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operational and compliance policies. Specifically, the Complaint alleges Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) Altria had conducted insufficient due diligence into JUUL prior to the Company’s $12.8 billion investment, or 35% stake, in JUUL; (ii) Altria consequently failed to inform investors, or account for, material risks associated with JUUL’s products and marketing practices, and the true value of JUUL and its products; (iii) all of the foregoing, as well as mounting public scrutiny, negative publicity, and governmental pressure on e-vapor products and JUUL made it reasonably likely that Altria’s investment in JUUL would have a material negative impact on the Company’s reputation and operations; and (iv) as a result, the Company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.
On December 11, 2019, the Court issued an Order consolidating cases. On December 30, the Court issued an Order appointing Lead Plaintiffs and Counsel. On February 7, 2020, the case was transferred into the Eastern District of Virginia under Docket 20-CV-00075. Lead Plaintiffs filed a consolidated Complaint on April 21. On July 2, Lead Plaintiffs filed a corrected consolidated Complaint. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the corrected consolidated Complaint on July 8.
On March 12, 2021, the Court issued an Order denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The parties entered into a Stipulation and Agreement of Settlement on December 9. On December 16, the Court granted preliminary approval of the Settlement.