DOJ slashes remedies sought in trial
During closing arguments, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shocked observers of the case by requesting only US$10 billion for a smoking-cessation program rather than the anticipated $130 billion.
The move spurred protests by members of Congress and anti-tobacco groups, accusing the department of bowing to political pressure, reports The New York Times. Representatives have asked the DOJís inspector general to investigate whether improper political interference led to the change.
Tobacco industry lawyers, however, view the move as evidence that the DOJís case was falling apart.
The DOJ suffered a major setback five months into the trial. An appeals court ruled that under civil racketeering laws, the DOJ was only entitled to seek forward-looking sanctions, known as remedies, intended to prevent and restrain any future misconduct by the companies. Therefore, the DOJ could not ask for the $280 billion it was seeking as profits from illegal activities, which were backward looking.
Regardless of what the DOJ has requested, the judge can impose financial penalties of any size. Analysts say it is unlikely the judge will issue her decision before fall. They also suggest a settlement may be reached before then.